US Broadband Penetration Jumps 17%, But Digital Divide Growing

Jul 3rd, 2008 | By | Category: General, Podcasting Research, Podcasting Statistics

55% of all adult Americans now have a high-speed internet connection at home, according to a May 2008 survey conducted by the Pew Internet & American Life Project:

  • The percentage of Americans with broadband at home has grown from 47% in early 2007 and 42% in early 2005.
  • Among individuals who use the internet at home, 79% now have a high-speed connection while 15% use dialup.

While 4 out or 5 home Internet users now connect with broadband, several groups are getting left behind:

  • Among adults who live in households whose annual incomes are less than $20,000 annually, home broadband adoption stood at 25% in early 2008, compared with 28% in 2007.
  • Among African Americans, home broadband adoption stood at 43% in May 2008 compared with 40% in early 2007.

“The flat growth in home high-speed adoption for low-income Americans suggests that tightening household budgets may be affecting people’s choice of connection speed at home,” said John B. Horrigan, Associate Director of Research at the Pew Internet & American Life project and author of the report. “Broadband is more costly on a monthly basis than dial-up, and some lower income Americans may be unwilling to take on another expense.”


Nonetheless, several groups exhibited strong growth in home broadband adoption from 2007 to 2008, namely:

  • Older Americans: Those age 50 and over experienced a 26% growth rate in home broadband adoption from 2007 to 2008. Half of Americans between the ages of 50 and 64 have broadband at home. Some 19% of those 65 and older had home broadband access as of April 2008.
  • Lower-middle income Americans: Those with household incomes between $20,000 and $40,000 annually saw broadband penetration grow by 24% from 2007 to 2008. Some 45% of those in that income range reported having broadband at home in April 2008.
  • Rural Americans: 38% of those living in rural American now have broadband at home, compared with 31% who said this in 2007, or a growth rate of 23% from 2007 to 2008.

While broadband adoption for low-income Americans has been flat, many broadband users show a willingness to pay more for broadband in order to get faster speeds. Some 29% of home broadband users say they subscribe to a more costly premium broadband service in order to have a faster home high-speed experience. A few even have fiber optic connections at home – 2% of broadband users say they have fiber at home.

The Pew Internet study also explores the reasons why many Americans – either dial-up users or non-internet users – do not have high-speed internet connections at home. Among the 10% of Americans (or 15% of home internet users) with dial-up at home:

  • 35% of dial-up users say that the price of broadband service would have to fall.
  • 19% of dial-up users said nothing would convince them to get broadband.
  • 10% of dial-up users – and 15% of dial-up users in rural America – say that broadband service would have to become available where they.

Overall, 62% of dial-up users say they are not interested in switching from dial-up to broadband.

Americans who are not online – 27% of adults who do not use the internet – are likely to be older (their median age is 61) and have low incomes. When non-internet users are asked why they don’t use the internet, here is what they say:

  • 33% of non-users say they are not interested.
  • 12% say they don’t have access.
  • 9% say it is too difficult or frustrating.
  • 7% say it is too expensive.
  • 7% say it is a waste of time.

“Economic factors play a large role in why some people don’t have broadband, but about one in ten non-broadband users say that service isn’t available where they live,” said Horrigan. “Beyond price and availability, some non-broadband users simply don’t see the need for having a high-speed connection at home.”

Other key findings from the survey are: Price of service:

  • Broadband users report an average monthly bill of $34.50 for high-speed service, 4% lower than the $36 reported by broadband users in December 2005.
  • Dial-up users report a montly bill of $19.70 for service, an increase of 9% over the $18 figure reported in December 2005.
  • Always connected users: Some 34% of online users say they have gone online away from home or work using a WiFi connection on their laptop. Among this group:
  • 64% say they use free WiFi services when they do this.
  • 58% use WiFi in public places such as an airport or coffee shop.

The Pew Internet Project’s report on broadband adoption is based on the Project’s April-May 2008 survey of 2,251 adults, 1,153 of whom were home broadband users.

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