As you rub your hands together in anticipation of 4G wireless and gigabit fiber, keep in mind a new report from the Pew Research Center's Internet & American Life Project. The report points out that nearly a third of Americans still do not have a broadband connection at home.
As of May, 70 percent of Americans aged 18 and older did have a home broadband connection, a slight increase from the 66 percent found in April of last year. Dial-up connections are down to a nearly invisible 3 percent.
As might be expected, there is a demographic correlation between broadband at home and education, age and household income. Nearly 90 percent of college graduates have high-speed Internet at home, but that number drops to 37 percent for those who have not completed high school. Adults under age 50 are more likely than older ones to have broadband at home, and households with at least $50,000 in annual income are more likely as well. For those 65 and older, the broadband rate is 43 percent.
Seventy-four percent of non-Hispanic whites have broadband, compared with 64 percent of non-Hispanic African Americans and 53 percent of Hispanic Americans. Urban and suburban Americans were about the same, with 70 percent and 73 percent respectively, while rural residents had a 62 percent rate.
Smartphone ownership, assumedly with a data plan, does offer some Internet access, however limited. Overall, 56 percent of Americans have a smartphone. More to the point, Pew found that 10 percent of Americans without broadband at home do own a smartphone. One could argue that this means the broadband penetration is closer to 80 percent. Additionally, Pew points out that, while African Americans and Hispanic Americans are somewhat less likely to have broadband at home than whites, their smartphone ownership nearly eliminates the overall differences.
But there is no general agreement as to whether 3G or 4G is required for "broadband speed," coverage and speeds can be spotty, and there are a variety of content-creating and productivity activities which are substantially more difficult to perform on a smartphone than on a full computer, such as completing a resume or filing taxes. Because of these factors, Pew has decided not to include the smartphone installed base as part of the broadband penetration rate.
The Problem of Price
The problem of universal broadband coverage does not appear to be availability at this point, since the Census Bureau's 2011 Current Population Survey found that about 98 percent of U.S. households are in areas with access to broadband Internet. But price is still a factor, especially in rural areas.
Pew said that it asked the relatively few adults with dial-up at home what they would need to switch to broadband, and about a third said the price would have to fall. Only one in five of the 3 percent with dial-up, or slightly more than one half of one percentage point, said "nothing would get them to change."
A Pew report from spring 2011 found that Americans generally feel that those without broadband at home are at a major disadvantage for finding out about job opportunities, learning career skills, getting health information, learning new things for personal enrichment, and using government services.
Posted: 2013-08-27 @ 2:32pm PT
Having broadband does not equal having good internet. I've got an overpriced ($60 a month) 1 mb line that is so horribly unstable you can't use it for anything but browsing. Downloads still require a utility to resume if they get interrupted or using Torrents. Streaming is impossible. Online gaming is impossible.
I'd personally say it's more accurate to that about 30% of Americans have internet that is actually worth a crap. The other 70% either have garbage or none.