RealTime IT News

Broadband Growth Slowing in U.S.

Nearly half of all consumers now have a broadband connection, but the rate of high-speed growth in America is slowing, according to a new study by the Pew Internet & American Life Project.

Pew's latest research shows 47 percent of Americans have a high-speed connection at home, compared to 42 percent in early 2006 and 30 percent in 2005. After exhibiting relatively strong growth between early 2005 and early 2006, home broadband adoption in 2006-2007 grew at its slowest rate in recent years.

Aaron Smith, a Pew research specialist and co-author of the report, attributed the large growth rate numbers in 2005-2006 to steeply discounted prices offered by telephone and cable companies in 2005.

"The low hanging fruit is somewhat picked," Smith told internetnews.com. "There was a big surge [in broadband connections] right in that time when prices began to drop. I expect that had a pretty big impact."

Despite the slowdown in broadband growth rates, Smith the Internet is out pacing other consumer technology in reaching the 50 percent consumer adoption rate. Color televisions took 18 years, cell phones 15 years, VCRs 14 years and CD players 10.5 years.

"The question is whether the Internet is a consumer electronics product or something else? Is it cable television or electricity?" Smith said, calling this year's five percent growth rate, "pretty impressive."

John Horrigan, associate director of research at Pew and a co-author of the report, added in a statement, "Luring remaining hard-to-get adults to home broadband is likely to involve showing them the relevance of online content."

As in previous Pew studies, rural America remains significantly less connected than urban and suburban areas. The numbers show 52 percent of consumers in urban America have a broadband connection while those in suburban areas clock in at 49 percent. In rural America, only 31 percent of consumers have a high-speed connection.

Overall Internet usage in rural areas also trails the national average. Rural Internet usage from any location -- home, office, libraries, etc. -- is 60 percent while the national average is 71 percent.

"Broadband adoption in rural America faces two challenges -- network availability and demographics," Smith said. "Rural Americans tend to be older, less avid online users and thus less interested in fast home connections. And some parts rural America also simply don't have the infrastructure for providing broadband at home."

Age also represents major gaps in consumer broadband deployment. In the 18-29 age group, Pew reports 63 percent have broadband connections at home. The 30-49 group follows closely at 59 percent while the 50-64 age group falls off to 40 percent. Senior, though, come in at 15 percent.

"Seniors are still struggling to get online," Smith said. "Age remains the biggest and seemingly most intractable obstacle."

According to the report, high-speed Internet adoption historically has been concentrated among the young, educated and relatively well-off.

"This trend held to form in our 2007 survey, as several historically broadband-heavy groups continue to have broadband usage adoption well above the overall average for adult Americans.," the report states. "In particular, broadband penetration remains high among Americans ages 18-49, those with annual household incomes over $75,000 and college graduates."

The Pew Internet Project’s report on broadband adoption is based on the Project’s February-March survey of 2,200 adults, 996 of whom were home broadband users.