More Adults Have Access to Broadband Internet

The number of American Adults with access to any form of broadband access has grown over the past two years. According to a recent Pew Foundation study, the percentage of American adults with access to either landline broadband or mobile broadband has grown from 78 to 80 since 2013.

The Pew Foundation concludes landline broadband adoption has seemingly decreased, with 67 percent of American adults subscribing to the service, compared to 70 percent in 2013. At the same time, smartphone adoption has increased 55 percent, with roughly 68 percent of American adults owning smartphones.

The decrease in landline adoption is offset, according to the study, by the number of Americans using their smartphones for broadband access. The “increase in smartphone adoption has compensated for the downturn in broadband adoption in two ways,” states the study, more Americans are “more likely to have both means of online access” and more Americans are “‘smartphone-only’ in 2015 than was the case in 2013.”

The decrease in landline broadband adoption appears spread equally across demographics, with a larger decrease among African Americans. However, the decrease in landline broadband use is offset by a concomitant increase by the number of African Americans going “smartphone-only.”  The increase in smartphone-only adoption, in addition to African Americans, seems concentrated among those earning less than $20,000 per year and the less educated.

There appear to be a couple barriers to landline broadband adoption. While 33 percent of those surveyed cite price as the primary deterrent to adoption of landline broadband, 29 percent of those with smartphones state they do not need a landline subscription because the smartphones do “everything online that [the study participants] need them to do.”

Another barrier to adoption may very well be the stubbornness of those who do not current subscribe to a landline service. The authors conclude that 70 percent of people without landline broadband are not interested in getting the service in the future. Another 46 percent of that same demographic may live in “hard to reach” locales, making adoption nearly impossible.

Policy makers should be encouraged that more Americans are adopting different forms of broadband. Access to broadband, whether landline or mobile, is essential for education, ecommerce, health, and different industries driving success in this country. According to an American Legislative Exchange Council model resolution:

[W]idespread efforts to promote broadband adoption, use, and digital literacy are critical to improving the nation’s long-term competitiveness in a global market, and to achieving certain socioeconomic improvements in the quality of American life; and, expanding adoption, use and digital literacy skills will allow a greater number of Americans to fully take advantage of the benefits of broadband based applications such as telehealth, energy management and education opportunities online.

A clear majority of American adults have access to broadband. For those who have not adopted some form of broadband, policy makers should carefully consider whether non-adopters have made a choice not to adopt broadband, or whether they live in a “hard-to-reach” area.

For those who have chosen not to adopt broadband, they should not be forced to adopt simply for the sake of percentages. Similarly, for those who live in “hard-to-reach” areas, innovation and technology seem to be providing the most sensible solution(s), in the form of mobile broadband.

As more Americans “cut the cord” for broadband services, it is likely percentages of landline broadband adoption will continue to fall, while they increase for mobile broadband. And as technologies evolve, more Americans will have access to broadband access in a number of different forms.

In Depth: Broadband

Access to a fast Internet connection returns a great of value to consumers. Whether for education, furthering a career, innovating or just enjoying entertainment, broadband access can open new worlds of opportunity. The great news is that the promise of broadband is being realized across the country, in urban and…

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