It's common to assume that just about everybody is online these
days. The Internet's gone from being the exclusive tool of government
and scientists, to a consumer novelty, to a part of everyday life – for
most of us.
But a study released recently by the Pew Internet & American Life Project found that 66
percent of Americans have a broadband connection at home, which is only
slightly higher than the 63 percent reported a year ago.
Perhaps more surprising, the study found that 21 percent of American
adults still don’t use the Internet at all. And 90 percent of those
nonusers say they don’t want to.
Broadband adoption is a priority of the Obama administration, set forth in the National Broadband Plan, which has set a goal of 90 percent broadband adoption by 2020.
Between June 2000 and May 2010, broadband adoption in the United
States has grown from 3 percent to 66 percent, with the biggest
one-year gain coming from March 2005 to March 2006, when adoption
increased from 28 percent to 42 percent. Dial-up connections,
meanwhile, have decreased from a high of 41 percent of U.S. homes in
April 2001 to 5 percent today.
It hasn’t been all double-digit growth: Pew’s annual survey
has found relatively small rates of growth in previous year. But the 3
percent increase of the past year is the smallest so far. One area of
growth the survey found was among African-American households, where
adoption grew from 46 percent in 2009 to 56 percent this year, by far
the largest increase among any demographics group, the report states.
As for the people who do not use the Internet, it’s not entirely
because of a lack of availability. Thirty-four percent of nonusers said
they either live in a house with an Internet connection – they just
don’t use it – or have been online before but are no longer.
The other 66 percent “are not tied in any obvious way to online
life,” the report states. But they don’t seem to think they’re missing
anything either: Only one in 10 of nonusers said they would like to get
The Federal Communications Commission, a principal player in the
National Broadband Plan, agreed with the study’s findings, saying it
underscores the need to pursue broadband adoption.
The "Pew report confirms what the FCC found in our broadband survey
last year: There are still too many barriers to broadband adoption in
America,” said FCC spokeswoman Jen Howard. “That's why the National
Broadband Plan lays out a strategy for improving digital literacy and
ensuring that all Americans can take full advantage of the benefits of
But not all of the respondents in the Pew survey agree that it’s the
government’s job to lead the charge toward high-speed connections.
Fifty-three percent said it shouldn’t be a government priority; 42
percent said it should be. The specific responses were:
- 26 percent of Americans say that expansion of affordable broadband access should not be attempted by government.
- 27 percent said it was “not too important.”
- 30 percent said it was an important priority.
- 11 percent said it should be a top priority.
Among other findings, the Pew report concluded that Americans have
mixed views about the importance of having broadband access. They asked
whether a lack of broadband was a major disadvantage, minor
disadvantage or not a disadvantage is a variety of areas. Among the
- Major disadvantage – 29%
- Minor disadvantage –27%
- Not a disadvantage – 37%
Job opportunities/gaining career skills:
- Major disadvantage – 43%
- Minor disadvantage –23%
- Not a disadvantage – 28%
Obtaining health information:
- Major disadvantage – 34%
- Minor disadvantage –28%
- Not a disadvantage – 35%
Keeping up with news and information:
- Major disadvantage – 23%
- Minor disadvantage –27%
- Not a disadvantage – 47%
Keeping up with what is happening in their communities:
- Major disadvantage – 19%
- Minor disadvantage –32%
- Not a disadvantage – 45%
The nationwide survey of 2,252 adults was conducted by telephone by Princeton Survey Research Associates International.