August 11, 2010

Home Broadband 2010

After several years of double digit growth, broadband adoption has slowed dramatically in 2010, but growth among African-Americans jumped well above the national average

21% of adults do not use the internet: Many do not believe the material they could find online is very relevant to their lives and most do not view the promotion of home broadband access as a high government priority

Overall, 53% of Americans do not think the government should devote much effort to the spread of affordable broadband 

Washington, DC –The adoption of broadband internet access slowed dramatically over the last year. Two-thirds of American adults (66%) now have a broadband internet connection at home, a figure that is little changed from the 63% with a high-speed home connection at a similar point in 2009.

Most demographic groups experienced flat-to-modest broadband adoption growth over the last year. The notable exception to this trend came among African-Americans, who experienced 22% year-over-year broadband adoption growth.

  • In 2009 65% of whites and 46% of African-Americans were broadband users (a 19-point gap)
  • In 2010 67% of whites and 56% of African-Americans are broadband users (an 11-point gap)

By a 53%-41% margin, Americans say they do not believe that the spread of affordable broadband should be a major government priority. Contrary to what some might suspect, non-internet users are less likely than current users to say the government should place a high priority on the spread of high-speed connections.

Asked in a national phone survey by the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project whether expanding affordable high-speed internet access to everyone in the country should be a top priority for the federal government, important but a lower priority, not too important, or should it not be done, a majority of Americans chose the latter two options:

  • 26% of Americans say that expansion of affordable broadband access should not be attempted by government
  • 27% said it was “not too important” a priority
  • 30% said it was an important priority
  • 11% said it should be a top priority

While younger users (those under age 30) and African-Americans are the most likely to favor expanded government efforts, those who are not currently online are especially resistant to government involvement in broadband promotion. Fully 45% of non-users say government should not attempt to make affordable broadband available to everyone, while just 5% of those who don’t use the internet say broadband access should be a top federal government priority.

In addition to their skepticism towards government efforts to promote widespread broadband adoption, the 21% of American adults who do not use the internet are not tied in any obvious way to online life and express little interest in going online.

  • They do not find online content relevant to their lives. Half (48%) of non-users cite issues relating to the relevance of online content as the main reason they do not go online.
  • They are largely not interested in going online. Just one in ten non-users say would like to start using the internet in the future.
  • They are not comfortable using computers or the internet on their own. Six in ten non-users would need assistance getting online. Just one in five know enough about computers and technology to start using the internet on their own.

“As broadband technologies have been adopted in the majority of American homes, a debate has arisen about the role of government in stepping in to ensure availability to high-speed internet access for all Americans,” said Senior Research Specialist Aaron Smith, author of the Pew Internet Project’s new report. “The majority think not, and the surprise is that non-users are the least inclined to think government has a role in the spread of broadband. It could be that the recession is causing Americans to prioritize other issues, or it could be general anti-government wariness. It could also stem from the fact that not many non-users are anxious to see government promoting technologies that they view as difficult to use and offering uncertain benefits.”

The new Pew Internet Project survey found that Americans have mixed views about the problems non-broadband users face due to their lack of a high-speed internet connection. There is no major issue on which a majority of Americans think that lack of broadband access is a major disadvantage, although African-Americans, Latinos and young adults are more keenly attuned than average to the impact of a lack of broadband access.

  • Job opportunities and career skills: 43% of Americans believe that lack of broadband is a “major disadvantage” when it comes to finding out about job opportunities or gaining new career skills. Some 23% think lack of access is a “minor disadvantage” and 28% think it is “not a disadvantage.” 
  • Health information: 34% of Americans believe that lack of broadband is a “major disadvantage” when it comes to getting health information. Some 28% think lack of access is a “minor disadvantage” and 35% think it is “not a disadvantage.”
  • Learning new things to improve and enrich life: 31% of Americans believe that lack of broadband is a “major disadvantage” when it comes to learning new things that might enrich or improve their lives. Some 31% think lack of access is a “minor disadvantage” and 32% think it is “not a disadvantage.”
  • Government services: 29% of Americans believe that lack of broadband is a “major disadvantage” when it comes to using government services. Some 27% think lack of access is a “minor disadvantage” and 37% think it is “not a disadvantage.”
  • Keeping up with news and information: 23% of Americans believe that lack of broadband is a “major disadvantage” when it comes to keeping up with news and information. Some 27% think lack of access is a “minor disadvantage” and 47% think it is “not a disadvantage.”
  • Keeping up with what is happening in their communities: 19% of Americans believe that lack of broadband is a “major disadvantage” when it comes to finding out about their local community. Some 32% think lack of access is a “minor disadvantage” and 45% think it is “not a disadvantage.”

These findings come from a nationwide telephone survey of 2,252 American adults (including 744 interviewed on cell phones) conducted between April 29 and May 30, 2010. The margin of error is two percentage points for the total sample.


About the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project

The Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project is one of seven projects that make up the Pew Research Center, a nonpartisan, nonprofit “fact tank” that provides information on the issues, attitudes and trends shaping America and the world. The Project produces reports exploring the impact of the internet on families, communities, work and home, daily life, education, health care, and civic and political life. The Project aims to be an authoritative source on the evolution of the internet through surveys that examine how Americans use the internet and how their activities affect their lives.