John Hoag

John Hoag

Photo courtesy of: Scripps College of Communication

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Study finds that students in Appalachian Ohio lag behind the rest of the state in technology access

A recent study conducted by Ohio University Associate Professor John Hoag revealed that students living in Appalachian Ohio have a clear disadvantage when it comes to availability to broadband service and the attainment of school-issued computers and tablets.

A faculty member in School of Information and Telecommunications Systems, Hoag found that students in Appalachian Ohio are 50 percent less likely to have school-issued laptop or tablet devices as students in the rest of the state. In addition, his research revealed that about one out of every five Appalachian K-12 students who receive a laptop or tablet from their school lack the broadband access at their home to use it.

Hoag’s study titled, “Ohio Broadband Trends,” was conducted from data collected between 2008 and 2014 on behalf of Connect Ohio under contract by the Ohio Development Services Agency. Connect Ohio’s primary role, in addition to filling a “research gap,” is to serve as the neutral advocate for broadband adoption across the state.

Hoag said a daunting challenge for Ohio’s broadband leaders is adoption, which is arguably a less technical and more social charge than availability.

His report suggests that a digital divide persists in Ohio and although broadband service is available to about 95 percent of Ohioans, only about 76 percent of residential subscribers adopt it.

Here are some other important findings in Hoag’s report:

  • Having a low household income, less education, physical impairment, advanced age and residing in Appalachia all correlate with not adopting broadband.
  • Broadband adoption in Ohio is 78 percent, but only 68 percent in Appalachian Ohio.
  • Data rates in Appalachia lag behind the rest of the state – 1.5 Mbps for DSL and 10 Mbps for cable modem service, compared to 10 Mbps for DSL and 15 Mbps in urban areas.
  • Appalachian Ohio smartphone users are 10 percent more likely to reach their data-cap limit during a billing cycle than users in the rest of the state.  
  • Ohio ranks 30th in the U.S. in home broadband adoption and the coverage and quality of broadband services in Appalachian Ohio substantially lag behind households in urban areas.
  • Ohioans’ lives would benefit from a greater rate of broadband adoption and the use of broadband-enabled technology in the following areas: education attainment, poverty, infant mortality and cancer incidence.

Hoag said his study will have its biggest impact by showing where broadband adoption can improve economic and workforce development, educational attainment and improved health outcomes.

“The study focused on the non-adopters, which is almost a quarter of residents surveyed,” Hoag said. “Appalachia is over-represented among the non-adopters, as are the elderly, the disabled, and those with incomes at or below the poverty level. Consequently, the study identified less engagement among these groups in the employment process (which is increasingly online), access to online health information and online educational participation.” 

To read the full study, click on