American Indians and Alaskan natives have the lowest rates of high-speed internet access in the United States, according to a new report from the U.S. Census Bureau. Titled Computer and Internet Use in the United States: 2021, the report released in June finds that the “digital divide between tribal and non-tribal households” fell from 10 percent to 6 percent between 2016 and 2021.

Access to the internet, however, remains lower among American Indian and Alaskan Native households on tribal lands. New data from the American Community Survey conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau, shows that 90 percent of non-Native American households had broadband access compared with 84 percent of American Indian and Alaska Native thousands and 71 percent of American Indian and Alaska Native households on tribal land. 

According to the American Indian Policy Institute (AIPI), 18 percent of Tribal reservation residents have no internet access, while 33 percent rely on smartphones for internet service. 

The AIPI noted that cost remains a barrier to access for most Native Americans. Approximately 33 percent of Native Americans rely on internet service from a smartphone at home. Reliability remains one of the biggest concerns among advocates. The AIPI reported that 31 percent of respondents stated that their connection was “spotty” or they had no connection at home.  

Some areas in the U.S. are seeing improvement in broadband access. Data from the U.S. Census Bureau finds that tribal residents in six states, including Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Washington and Wisconsin, have broadband rates at or above the national average of 90 percent in 2021.

The U.S. Census Bureau noted one particular instance where the Navajo Reservation and Off-Reservation Trust Land, one of the largest tribal American Indian and Alaska Native populations, has a broadband subscription rate of only 33 percent.

Meanwhile, tribal residents in Arizona, Connecticut and New Mexico had among the nation’s lowest rates at less than 70 percent in Arizona and New Mexico, and 60 percent in Connecticut.