August 26, 2013

Home Broadband 2013

70% of American adults have a high-speed broadband connection at home

10% of Americans lack home broadband but do own a smartphone

20% of Americans have neither a home broadband connection nor a smartphone

Media Contacts:

Kathryn Zickuhr, Research Associate: kzickuhr@pewresearch.org or 202-419-4518

Aaron Smith, Senior Researcher: asmith@pewresearch.org or 202-419-4516

Report URL: http://www.pewinternet.org/Reports/2013/Broadband.aspx

Home broadband adoption reaches 70% of U.S. adults

WASHINGTON (August 26, 2013) – Some 70% of American adults ages 18 and older have a high-speed broadband connection at home as of May 2013, according to a nationally representative survey by the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project. The survey also found that 3% of American adults go online at home via dial-up connections.

As found in previous research, groups with the highest rates of home broadband adoption continue to be college graduates, adults under age 50, and adults living in households earning at least $50,000, as well as whites and adults living in urban or suburban areas.

“We’ve consistently found that age, education, and household income are among the strongest factors associated with home broadband adoption,” said Kathryn Zickuhr, Research Associate for the Pew Research Center’s Internet Project and lead author of the report. “Many dial-up users cite cost and access as the main reasons they don’t have broadband, but for adults who don’t use the internet at all, a lack of interest is often the main issue.”

Eight in ten adults have either home broadband or a smartphone

In recent years internet-connected mobile devices such as smartphones have exploded in popularity; smartphones are now owned by more than half of all American adults (56%), and may offer an alternate form of “home” internet access. In fact, this survey found that one in ten Americans owns a smartphone but do not have a high-speed broadband connection at home.

However, it is unclear whether 3G or 4G smartphones qualify as “broadband” speed, or if smartphones can otherwise offer the same utility to users as a dedicated high-speed home internet connection. For these reasons, smartphones are qualitatively distinct enough that we do not include them in our standard definition of what constitutes a “broadband user.”

At the same time, smartphones do offer a potential source of online access to individuals who might otherwise lack the ability to go online at all from within the home, even if that access is somewhat limited in comparison. When smartphone owners are added to home broadband users, the proportion of Americans with some sort of “home” internet access other than dial-up reaches 80%:

  • 70% of American adults have a high-speed broadband connection at home
  • 10% of Americans lack home broadband but do own a smartphone
  • 20% of Americans have neither a home broadband connection nor a smartphone

“Broadband users can consume and create many types of content in ways that dial-up users cannot, and our research has long shown major differences in these two groups’ online behavior,” said Aaron Smith, Senior Researcher for the Pew Research Center’s Internet Project and co-author of the report. “Smartphones may offer an additional avenue for internet access that surpasses the dial-up experience in many ways, but those who rely on them for home internet use may face limitations that are not shared by those with traditional broadband connections.”

Though including smartphones in the definition of home broadband access helps narrow the differences between some demographic groups, it actually widens the gap between others. For instance, while blacks and Latinos are less likely to have access to home broadband than whites, factoring in their use of smartphones nearly eliminates that broadband “gap”. On the other hand, including smartphones in our broadband definition actually exacerbates differences in broadband adoption rates by age group, due to the fact that younger adults are much more likely to own smartphones than older adults.

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