June 27, 2004

One Quarter of Online Americans Have Heard of VoIP

WASHINGTON, D.C. (JUNE 27)– New research by the Pew Internet & American Life Project and the New Millennium Research Project show that 27% of Internet users have heard of Voice over Internet Protocol phone calling, and 13% of that population have considered adopting VoIP in the home. This translates into 34 million Americans who have heard of VoIP and 4 million who have considered getting the service at home. The survey also found that 11% of Internet users, nearly 14 million Americans, have made some form of phone call over the Internet. This includes people who may have used VoIP at work, home, or downloaded free software that allows calls between Internet-connected computers. “Anecdotal evidence suggests that the ‘pioneering consumer’ often faces new technology ‘glitches,’ but then reaps the benefits and enjoys being the first on the block with a new gadget,” said John B. Horrigan, Senior Research Specialist at the Pew Internet & American Life Project. The 4 million Americans who have considered switching to VoIP – mostly technophiles and generally well off economically – represent the near-term potential for the home VoIP market. But the emerging consumer VoIP market is just that. Of the 2,204 respondents interviewed in the Pew Internet Project’s February 2004 national telephone survey, exactly one said that VoIP service was used in the home. The VoIP questions in the survey were developed in collaboration with the New Millennium Research Council. “Two-thirds of those who have heard of VoIP have a high speed connection either at home or work, compared with slightly more than half of all ‘Net users. Given the need for a high-speed connection to make VoIP work effectively, it is no great surprise that high-speed users are more attuned to VoIP,” reports Horrigan. “I believe that these survey numbers highlight that the vast majority of Americans are not quite ready to throw away their land lines and cell phones for Internet telephony. That said, with one in eight Internet users considering signing up for VoIP, even modest industry take-up rates over the next five years are sizeable figures,” said Allen S. Hepner, Advisory Board Member of the NMRC. “This ‘disruptive technology’ is coming to all Americans; it is not a question of ‘if,’ but ‘when.’ VoIP also disrupts existing laws and regulations in the telecom arena,” said Hepner. “Legislators and regulators would be wise to reexamine existing policy sooner rather than later, so as to minimize regulatory uncertainties for business and consumers.” ABOUT PEW AND THE NMRC The Pew Internet & American Life Project is a non-profit initiative, fully-funded by The Pew Charitable Trusts to explore the impact of the Internet on children, families, communities, health care, schools, the work place, and civic/political life. The Project is non-partisan and does not advocate for any policy outcomes. For more information, please visit: http://www.pewinternet.org. The New Millennium Research Council (NMRC) is a network of policy experts who develop workable, real-world solutions to the issues and challenges confronting policymakers. Its work has focused primarily in the fields of telecommunications and technology. For more information, please visit: www.newmillenniumresearch.org. CONTACTS: PEW: John B. Horrigan, Ph.D., Senior Research Specialist (202-296-0019) NMRC: Allen S. Hepner, Advisory Board Member (202-263-2930)