The majority of Oklahoma voters ages 50 and older support policies to expand high-speed internet, according to a new AARP survey.
They support policies such as allowing rural electric cooperatives to offer high-speed internet to their customers as well as state action to incentivize internet providers to expand high-speed internet to unserved rural areas.
Furthermore, the majority of voters say that they would be more likely to vote for a candidate who had helped make affordable high-speed internet available to all Oklahomans, regardless of where they live.
High-speed internet (often referred to as broadband) offers access to an ever-expanding range of online information and resources that can improve quality of life for people of all ages and help older adults live independently. In the age of COVID and social distancing, the need for reliable and affordable high-speed internet is now more important than ever.
The technology, faster and more reliable than antiquated dial-up service, has the potential to reduce the risk of social isolation by facilitating social connections, provide access to important supportive services (including telehealth) that may not be locally available, promote learning by offering access to unlimited information, and help local businesses grow by serving customers outside their geographical area.
The survey also shows widespread use of the internet. However, some voters — especially those in rural areas — report that access to high-speed internet is a problem in their local community and that quality, availability, and/or cost have limited their home internet use.
Support for Expanding Access to High-Speed Internet
Nearly eight in ten (78%) voters support allowing rural electric cooperatives to offer high-speed internet to their customers. In fact, more than three in four voters, regardless of political affiliation, feel this way.
Roughly three in four (74%) voters support state action to offer incentives to internet providers to expand high-speed internet service to rural areas that do not currently have access.
Six in 10 (60%) voters would be more likely to vote for a candidate who had helped make affordable high-speed internet available to all Oklahomans, regardless of where they live. This includes the majority of both Republicans and Democrats.
Reasons for Investing in High-Speed Internet
Nearly nine in 10 voters believe that improving access to education (88%), improving access to online healthcare (86%), preventing social isolation among older adults (87%), and helping businesses be competitive (85%) are among the most important reasons for the state to invest in developing high-speed internet. The importance of these issues resonates regardless of political affiliation, with more than eight in 10 Republicans and Independents and roughly nine in 10 Democrats deeming these issues to be important.
Internet Use Is Widespread
Much of the survey points to widespread reliance on the internet. More than eight in 10 (86%) Oklahoma registered voters use the internet, with most (76%) accessing it at least once a day. Among those who use the internet, nearly all (95%) use it at home.
Home internet users have used the internet in a variety of ways during the pandemic to stay connected with others and to address important needs such as making purchases, paying bills, obtaining healthcare, and working remotely.
- The majority of home internet users have made online purchases (73%), used social media (70%), paid bills online (61%), and streamed TV shows or movies (56%).
- In addition, roughly seven in 10 (69%) have used the internet for at least one of the following health-related reasons:
- to schedule a healthcare appointment or order prescriptions (46%)
- to get health or fitness information (45%)
- to attend an online healthcare appointment (43%)
- Roughly three in 10 have used the internet to work remotely (31%).
Still, Rural Areas Face More Challenges
More than half (61%) of Oklahoma voters who live in rural areas say that access to high-speed internet is a problem in their local community, compared to 41% of nonrural voters.
Rural internet users are more likely than nonrural users to report experiencing home internet problems in the past 12 months related to bandwidth (30% rural users vs. 18% nonrural users) and multiple users (29% vs. 16%).
Rural internet users are also more likely than nonrural users to say that quality (44% v. 34%), and/or availability (36% v. 28%) have limited their use of internet at home some, moderately, or a great deal.
The types of home internet connections reported by rural internet users differ from the types of connections reported by nonrural users. While 59% of nonrural home internet users have a cable or fiber optic internet connection, just 33% of rural home internet users claim the same. Rural home internet users are more likely than nonrural users to rely on satellite (17% rural vs. 4% nonrural), DSL (23% vs. 17%), or to say that cellular service is their only method of accessing the internet at home (10% vs. 5%).
Overall, approximately three-fourths (78%) of home internet users say they do not have a fiber optic internet connection at home, which is generally the fastest type of internet service. When asked to indicate their major reason for not having fiber, four in 10 cite lack of availability. Rural internet users without fiber at home are more likely than their nonrural counterparts to cite lack of availability as their main reason for not having fiber (57% vs. 29%, respectively).
The AARP telephone survey was conducted among 1,218 registered voters ages 50+ in Oklahoma. Forty percent of the respondents were reached on a mobile phone. The survey was administered by Alan Newman Research between July 19, 2021 and August 3, 2021.
Brown, S. Kathi. High-Speed Internet: Views of Oklahoma Voters Ages 50+. Washington, DC: AARP Research, October 2021. https://doi.org/10.26419/res.00464.001
Expand High-Speed Internet Access, Say Oklahoma Voters