Spotlight on Outcomes Digital Divide Continues as New Jersey Receives Internet for All Planning Grants

Newark at the epicenter of the At-Home Digital Divide Crisis

NEWARK, NJ — While efforts in New Jersey to close the digital divide have primarily focused on student needs for smart devices — a gap that has been significantly filled during the pandemic — there remains a deep disparity between families who are can afford high-speed internet service at home, and those who can’t. A new study by Newark-based nonprofits Project Ready and Newark Trust for Education finds that the biggest barrier to adequate broadband access is affordability — not lack of physical infrastructure — and that income and poverty are the best predictors of access Adjacent to high-speed broadband.

“It doesn’t matter if homes are wired for broadband if residents can’t afford it,” he said Shennell McCloud, CEO of Project Ready. “The internet is no longer a luxury – it’s a necessity in today’s world, and poor internet service hampers school, work and everything else a family needs to thrive. A Chromebook and a hotspot were a good first step, but it’s not enough to close the real digital divide that persists. Now is the time for a concerted effort by all stakeholders to bring true ‘Internet Justice’ to New Jersey.”

While the average download speed in New Jersey is 136 Mbps, the average Newark family has broadband speeds of just 79.5 Mbps, despite the infrastructure being in place – less than the 100 Mbps required by a family of four needed.

“This study proves that households in the lowest income brackets are about half as likely to have access to the Internet as households in the highest,” he said Roland Chaluisan, Executive Director of the Newark Trust for Education. “Given what we know about racial income inequality, as we see specifically in the Newark research, the households that are most affected are black and Latino.”

The study compared average Internet download speeds by zip code in Newark, Jersey City, Paterson, Elizabeth and Toms River.

The bipartisan Infrastructure Act introduced the Affordable Connectivity Program to give eligible households a discount of up to $30 per month on their internet bills. Additionally, New Jersey recently received over $6 million in “Internet for All” planning grants from the bipartisan Infrastructure Act to provide affordable, high-speed internet statewide and close the digital justice gap, while the city of Newark provided a citywide Broadband survey and speed test as part of efforts to provide affordable high-speed internet across the city.

“I commend the Murphy administration and the Baraka administration for their leadership and efforts to close the digital divide once and for all,” added Shennell McCloud. “We need a comprehensive approach from all stakeholders to ensure residents are aware of the programs available to them and to continue the work to bring reliable and affordable broadband to everyone.”

Click here to view the study.

Important Findings

  • Poverty and income are the best predictors of Internet speed and quality in New Jersey’s five largest cities.
    • A ZIP code’s poverty rate is the strongest predictor of average download speed, followed by median household income. Internet speed is measured in Mbit/s, with a minimum of 100 Mbit/s required to adequately meet the Internet needs of a small family.
  • Newark has the largest home digital divide in the state, with dire repercussions on economic, educational, and social success. While New Jersey’s average download speed is 136 Mbps despite having infrastructure, the average Newark family has broadband speeds of just 79.5 Mbps. No Newark zip code averages 100 Mbps.
    • Households earning less than $60,000 can only afford to access broadband at speeds less than 100 Mbps, which is the necessary download speed for a household of four.
  • 37% of Newark public schools are located in zip code areas where average download speeds are only between 29% and 53% of the statewide average download speeds.

The five cities surveyed ranked as follows in terms of weighted average broadband speeds within their ZIP Codes:

  • Newark: 79.5 Mbps
  • Paterson: 92.3 Mbps
  • Elizabeth: 93.7 Mbps
  • Jersey City: 106.4 Mbps
  • Tom’s River: 164.7 Mbps


Average zip code broadband speed (Mbps) was retrieved from Broadband Now’s repository of proprietary plans and pricing data, and from the FCC. ZIP code-level demographic, income, and poverty data were obtained from US census data. A regression analysis was applied to Essex County ZIP Codes to analyze potential correlations between average download speeds and several population characteristics.

About Project Ready

Project Ready works to close gaps in opportunity and improve life outcomes by empowering communities to demand social justice through civic engagement. The organization expands the electoral base and significantly increases voter turnout while transforming policies that disenfranchise vulnerable communities. Visit

About Newark Trust for Education

Newark Trust for Education is an independent non-profit organization dedicated to coordinating and focusing ideas, people and resources for the efficient and effective delivery of quality public education to all children in Newark; and creating broad and shared accountability for student success across multiple stakeholders. Visit for more information

(visited 6 times, 6 visits today)