Stats on Broadband Adoption and Use in America

The Federal Communications Commission conducted a survey in October- November 2009 to understand the State of broadband adoption and use in America, as well as barriers facing those who do not have broadband at home. Some of the key survey findings include:

  • 78% of adults are Internet users, whether that means broadband, dial-up, access from home or access from someplace other than home
  • 74 percent of adults have internet access at home.
  • 65% of American adults use high-speed Internet con­nections to go online from home
  • 6% use dial-up Internet connections as their main form of home access.
  • 6%  are Internet users but do not use it from home; they access the Internet from places such as work, the library or community centers.

The main dividing lines for broadband access fall along socioeconomic dimensions such as income and education.

  • Education’s impact on adoption rates:
    • 46% of adults whose highest level of education is a high school degree are broadband users at home
    • 82% of adults who have attended or graduated from college are broadband users at home.
    • Income’s impact on adoption rates:
      • 40% broadband adoption among households with low income Americans – with income below $20,000
      • 52% broadband adoption among households with incomes at or below $50,000
      • 87% of adoption among households with incomes above $50,000
      • 91% adoption among households with annual incomes over $75,000.

Ethnicity’s impact on broadband access

African-Americans broadband access

African-Americans trail the average in broadband access, although gaps have narrowed since early 2009.

  • 59% of African-Americans have broadband at home, but this varies greatly by age:
    • 75% of young African-Americans (30 or younger) have broadband – matching the national average.
    • Senior African Americans however only have 21% broadband adoption (35% avg)
    • With respect to barriers to adoption, 42 percent of African-Americans say cost is the main reason they do not have broadband.

For African-Americans, online access is, relative to the average, somewhat less oriented to home high-speed wireline access and more focused on mobile Internet. Nearly three in five (59 percent) African-Americans have broadband at home, but 39 percent have used the Internet on their mobile handheld device. For African-Americans, home broadband adoption trails the national average by six percentage points; for mobile Internet use, African-Americans outpace the national average by nine percentage points.

Hispanics broadband access

Hispanics trail the average in broadband access, although gaps have narrowed since early 2009.

  • 49% of Hispanics have broadband at home, but this varies greatly by whether or not they speak English:
    • 20% of Hispanics who took the survey in Spanish have broad­band.
    • 65% of Hispanics who opted to take the survey in English, have broadband.
    • Only 57% of young Hispanics (30 or younger) have broadband, far below the 75% avg.
    • As to adoption barriers, 52% of Hispanic non-adopters cite cost, equally split between those who point to the monthly fee and those who say they cannot afford a computer.

The adoption gap for Hispanics is most acute among young adults. Some 57% of Hispanics between the ages of 18 – 29 have broadband, more than 20 points below the average. And 53% of those between the ages of 30-49 have broadband, 25 points behind the average.

85% of Hispanics have a cell phone and are active users of the mobile Internet; 39% have taken advantage of online access with their handheld. To a somewhat greater extent than African-Americans, mobile access takes the place of broadband at home.

25% of Hispanics who do not have broadband at home access the Internet using their mobile device. Among Hispanics who have used the Internet via handheld devices, 68% have broadband at home, another indication that the mobile Internet fills the wireline void for some Hispanics.

Disabilities and broadband access

42% of Americans with disabilities have broad­band at home, just 2/3rd‘s the national average.

  • Looking at the data differently, 39 percent of all Americans without broadband have some type of disability.
  • 33% of respondents with a disability were over the age of 65 in the survey, and only 25% have broadband at home. At the other end of the spectrum, 33% were under the age of 50, and 57% have broadband at home—more than 20 points below average.
  • Senior citizens with disabilities are 76% less likely to have broadband than seniors who do not have a disability.

Age and broadband access

Senior citizens (over 65) continue to trail the national average in broadband adoption with a 35 per­cent broadband-at-home penetration rate.

  • Nearly half (48 percent) of senior citizens are Internet users, regardless of connection type.

Location and broadband access

  • 50% of rural residents have broadband, a rate that reflects in part the older and less wealthy rural population but also the lack of available infra­structure.
  • 10% of rural non-adopters say they cannot get broadband where they live. That is more than twice the aver­age.

3 primary reasons for lack of access

There are 3 primary reasons why the 35 percent of non-adopting Americans do not have broadband: cost, lack of digital literacy and broadband is not sufficiently relevant for them to purchase it:

  1. 36% of non-adopters cite cost as the main rea­son they do not have high-speed Internet at home.
  2. 22% of non-adopters cite factors pointing to lack of digital literacy as the main reason they are not online. Includes people who are uncomfortable with com­puters or, are “worried about all the bad things that can happen if I use the Internet.”
  3. 19% of non-adopters do not have broadband because they question its relevance to their lives. They do not believe digital content is sufficiently compelling to justify getting it.

24% of non-adopters have had expe­rience with broadband, meaning they once had service at home or have used it at work or someplace else:

  • 17 % had home access in the past – and half of these had high speed access.
  • 46 percent of dial-up or “not-at-home” Internet users have used a broadband connection from somewhere other than home, such as at work, school or a friend or family member’s house.

Many use the internet through someone else. “Proxy Internet” use is evident for 22% of non-In­ternet or “not-at-home” users who live with someone with online access. Among these users:

  • 16% ask the Internet user in the home to carry out an online task at least once a week.
  • 20% ask the Internet user in the house to carry out an online task about once a month.

When it comes to outlooks toward the Internet and levels of ownership of ICT products, non-adopting Americans fall into four categories, each with different barriers to broad­band adoption.

  1. Digitally Distant non-adopters make up 10% of the general population, and do not see the point of being online. Few in this group see the Internet as a tool for learning and most see it as a dangerous place for chil­dren. This is an older group (the median age is 63), nearly half are retired and half say that either lack of relevance or digital literacy are barriers to adoption.
  2. Digital Hopefuls make up 8% of the population. They like the idea of being online but lack the resources for ac­cess. Few have a computer and, among those who use one, few feel comfortable with the technology. They are most likely to cite cost as a barrier to adoption, with affordability of the com­puter playing an important role. They are also more likely than average to say digital literacy is a barrier. Demographically, this group is heavily Hispanic (26%), has a high share of African-Americans (20%) and is low-income.
  3. Digitally Uncomfortable make up 7% of the pop., and are the mirror image of the Digital Hopefuls; they have the resources for access but not a bright outlook on what it means to be online. Nearly all of the Digitally Uncomfortable have computers, but they lack the skills to use them and have tepid attitudes toward the Internet.
  4. The Near Converts, who make up 10% of the popu­lation, have many of the same characteristics of broadband adopters. They have high rates of computer ownership, positive attitudes about the Internet and are, relative to other non-adopters, youthful (at a median age of 45). Many are dial-up or “not-at-home” users, and monthly access cost is the largest reason for non-adoption among this group.

The bottom line, is that while we’ve made inroads in expanding broadband access to greater groups, it stills falls along the typical lines of the have’s and have nots – live in a town or city, have money, your health, and an education, and be under the age of 60 and you are much more likely to be set.

As we push to make broadband access available and affordable to all, creating internet safety educational materials that are:

  • Available in Spanish, and other key languages
  • Customized to appropriately target seniors
  • Accessible – distributed through a wide variety of sources that reach segments with lower rates of inclusion.



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