The Broadband Gap In The U.S.

    August 2, 2007

The U.S. ranks 15th in the world in broadband adoption, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).

The Pew Internet Project’s February 2007 survey, found that 47 percent of American adults have broadband at home and that is almost double the 24 percent penetration level of three years earlier.

Home broadband penetration is on track to reach 50 percent this year according to Pew.

There are two large segments of the population who do not have broadband, those who are not Internet users and those who have dial-up connections. Around 29 percent of Americans do not use the Internet and 15 percent have dial-up access from home.

The median age of the non-Internet user is 59, and 25 percent say they have household incomes under 20,000 per year.

Many in this group have little or no interest in information technology.

In surveys conducted in 2002,2004, and 2006 40 percent of dial-up users said they wanted to switch to broadband, which means 60 percent were okay with using dial-up.

The 40- 60 ratio has been steady even as broadband penetration tripled, which means some dial-up users change their minds.

In 2004 the Pew Internet Project found that 15 percent of dial-up users did not have broadband available where they lived and for rural Americans the number was 27 percent.

The Pew report says that even closing the broadband gap in rural areas would not do much for the U.S. global broadband rankings.

"Assuming most of the gap is concentrated in rural areas and that closing the gap would bring rural broadband penetration in line with the national average, America’s home broadband penetration would rise by only 3 percentage points. That will not vault the U.S. to the top of OECD’s rankings."

Pew does offer a solution to the broadband gap, "To reach the underserved, policymakers might consider more aggressive and targeted outreach efforts that educate hard-to-reach populations about the benefits of online connectivity."