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NTIA Seeks Feedback on Draft Questionnaire for Next Internet Use Survey

May 26, 2021 by Rafi Goldberg, Policy Analyst, Office of Policy Analysis and Development

For more than a quarter-century, NTIA’s Internet Use Survey has provided the public with information about the digital divide and how Americans’ use of computers and the Internet has grown and changed over time.

Since 1994, NTIA has partnered with the Census Bureau 15 times to field this vital data collection to inform policymakers and enable important research. Our most recent survey went out in November 2019, and we’re pleased to be working with the Census Bureau again to conduct the next NTIA Internet Use Survey in November 2021. This will be a great opportunity to understand how computer and Internet use in America changed as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

In order to create better informed solutions that improve the state of digital equity in America, NTIA is always looking for ways to improve the questions asked in our survey. As technologies and our understanding of policy challenges evolve, we try to keep our survey evolving as well, while also preserving the ability to track changes over time.

Today, we are soliciting public comment on our draft questionnaire. Feedback on this draft will build on the comments we received last summer, when NTIA, for the first time ever, published a Request for Comments asking researchers, advocates, and other interested members of the public to tell us how to improve the NTIA Internet Use Survey.

We received excellent ideas in response to the RFC, and we’re grateful to all the commenters for taking the time to think carefully about how today’s digital equity challenges may benefit from the kind of research enabled by survey data. The majority of new and modified questions we are now exploring are a direct result of the comments we received.

For example, thanks to one researcher who submitted a comment, we are proposing to add questions that measure quality and stability of access to both the computing devices and Internet access services used by Americans. This additional information will help us understand the extent to which some may be relying on computers that are outdated or don’t work well, or have slow or limited Internet connections, or who sometimes lose access because they’re sharing devices or can’t always afford the broadband bill.

Other new questions we are proposing thanks to public feedback are aimed at measuring the use of digital voice assistants, understanding who accesses government services online, and ascertaining how much offline households would be willing to pay for home Internet service.

Our partners at the Census Bureau are now testing these and other changes to the questionnaire to see how they perform in the field. We look forward to your feedback on our questionnaire and to the new data we may be able to collect in November thanks to our community of data users. 

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