American Internet Connectivity Grows, But Some Groups Not Interested

"Tightening household budgets may be affecting people's choice of connection speed at home."

by / July 2, 2008

Some 55 percent 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 percent in early 2007 and 42 percent in early 2005. Among individuals who use the Internet at home, 79 percent have a high-speed connection while 15 percent use dialup.

The 17 percent growth rate from 2007 to 2008 represents is comparable to the 12 percent growth rate recorded in the 2006 to 2007 timeframe. However, several groups exhibited little or no growth in broadband adoption at home from 2007 to 2008:

  • Among adults who live in households whose annual incomes are less than $20,000 annually, home broadband adoption stood at 25 percent in early 2008, compared with 28 percent in 2007.
  • Among African Americans, home broadband adoption stood at 43 percent in May 2008 compared with 40 percent 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 percent 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 percent 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 percent from 2007 to 2008. Some 45 percent of those in that income range reported having broadband at home in April 2008.
  • Rural Americans: 38 percent of those living in rural American now have broadband at home, compared with 31 percent who said this in 2007, or a growth rate of 23 percent 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 percent 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 percent 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 percent of Americans (or 15 percent of home Internet users) with dial-up at home:

  • 35 percent of dial-up users say that the price of broadband service would have to fall.
  • 19 percent of dial-up users said nothing would convince them to get broadband.
  • 10 percent of dial-up users -- and 15 percent of dial-up users in rural America -- say that broadband service would have to become available where they live.
  • Overall, 62 percent of dial-up users say they are not interested in switching from dial-up to broadband.

Americans who are not online -- 27 percent 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 percent of non-users say they are not interested.
  • 12 percent say they don't have access.
  • 9 percent say it is too difficult or frustrating.
  • 7 percent say it is too expensive.
  • 7 percent 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 10 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:

  • Broadband users report an average monthly bill of $34.50 for high-speed service, 4 percent 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 percent over the $18 figure reported in December 2005.
  • Always connected users: Some 34 percent of online users say they have gone online away from home or work using a Wi-Fi connection on their laptop. Among this group, 64 percent say they use free Wi-Fi services when they do this. 58 percent use Wi-Fi 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.