February 26, 2006

Rural America trails rest of nation in home broadband use, but gap has narrowed in past two years

(Washington, February 26, 2006) – Rural Americans are less likely to log on to the internet at home with high-speed internet connections than people living in other parts of the country. By the end of 2005, 24% of adult rural Americans went online at home with high-speed internet connections compared with 39% of adults in urban and suburban areas.

Though the gap remains sizable, growth in rural broadband adoption has been fast relative to urban and suburban areas in the past two years.

“Rural broadband users are no different than home high-speed users elsewhere; they go online more often and do more online activities than dial-up users,” said John B. Horrigan, Associate Director of the Pew Internet Project and principal author of the report. “But with a lower proportion of broadband users in rural America than elsewhere, the result is that rural Americans, in aggregate, have a more distant relationship with the internet than urban and suburban Americans.”

Overall rural internet penetration has risen quickly in recent years, with 62% of adult rural Americans at the end of 2005 with internet access, compared with 70% of adults in urban and suburban locales. This 8 percentage point gap is about half the rural-non-rural gap at the end of 2003. Coupled with fast growth in broadband adoption, the internet profile of rural America is slowly becoming more like the rest of the nation.

In analysis of specific activities, there are several instances in which rural users are more likely than non-rural users to certain things online. Rural internet users are more likely to take classes for credit online, download screensavers, and download video games.

“For certain things, like taking classes online, the internet is a real ‘distance-killing’ benefit for rural Americans,” said Katherine Murray, research assistant for the project and co-author of the report.

The Pew Internet Project’s report on rural broadband adoption is based on the Project’s combined September-December 2005 surveys of 5,262 Americans, 3,508 of whom were internet users. The Pew Internet Project is a non-profit, non-partisan initiative of the Pew Research Center that produces reports exploring the impact of the internet on children, families, communities, the work place, schools, health care, and civic/political life. Support for the non-profit Pew Internet Project is provided by The Pew Charitable Trusts.