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Not only does home access to high-speed Internet service vary by state, it also varies within states. Some metropolitan areas far out-pace neighboring towns; some well-connected cities have pockets of poor access in certain neighborhoods.

Broadband access map

Take California. It has some of the best – and worst – connected metropolitan areas in the nation, according to 2014 U.S. Census estimates. Nearly 89 percent of people have access to high-speed Internet in the San Jose, Sunnyvale and Santa Clara metropolitan area, ranking it No. 4 in the country. Yet less than 70 percent of people in El Centro, in southern California, have a fast connection, making that No. 341 out of 384 metropolitan areas in the Census report.

Some schools are trying to bridge the divide at home.

The Coachella Valley Unified School District, in the El Centro area, recently updated schools with better connections and gave every student a tablet computer. Then the district installed a Wi-Fi router on a school bus and parked it at night in a trailer park, so students there can log on at home.

Other districts have enhanced Internet service at local libraries, or built Internet “kiosks” accessible for students without high-speed service at home. (Kent School District is one example.)

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