February 15, 2005

More Americans have home computer networks

Internet users in households with multiple computers are increasingly turning to home networks to manage their computing and online surfing at home. According to our January 2005 survey, 46% of homes with more than one computer said they had a home network of some sort. Among those networked at home, half (52%) have wireless networks with the rest using cables to network their homes.

When we last asked, in October 2002, about computer networks at home, 29% of these users said they had networked their computers (among those with more than one computer). Thus, by January 2005 – during which time internet penetration in the general population increased – 73% more Americans were networking their computers at home than was the case in October 2002.

Two things are behind this growth. One is the surge in broadband use among home internet users during this time frame. About one-quarter (24%) of home internet users had high-speed connections in October 2002. By January 2005, this had doubled to 50% of home internet users who were logging on with high-speed connections.

The second factor is increasing use of laptop computers by Americans. Fully 36% of household computer users said that at least one computer at home was a laptop in our January 2005 survey; half of these laptops are equipped with wireless modems. Although the Pew Internet Project did not ask about household ownership of laptops in 2002, sales of laptop computers have been much more brisk than those for desktop computers in recent years.

Americans are building more sophisticated computer environments at home in the quest for more mobility and flexibility in their household internet experience. People may, by themselves, wade through process of putting together a home network or they may hire someone to do it for them. The result, especially for those with wireless networks and wireless-enabled laptops, is greater functionality from their “always on” high-speed networks.