Broadband Adoption Jumps in U.S.

Broadband usage has increased significantly over the past two years, as 63.5% of U.S. households reported having broadband connections in 2009, according to a new report from the U.S. Department of Commerce.

Broadband stimulus timing set by the government

This is a big leap from 2007, when just over half of U.S. households reported

Graphic: Diego Aguirre
having broadband connections. Additionally, broadband connections now account for roughly 92% of all U.S. household Internet connections, whereas they accounted for 82% of all U.S. household Internet connections in 2008.

But while overall broadband adoption has increased over the past two years, the report also found that critical gaps remain, particularly with regard to income, age and race. In terms of income, the study found that there was a direct correlation between family earnings and broadband adoption, as families with incomes of less than $15,000 had the lowest rate of broadband adoption (29.9%) while families with incomes of more than $150,000 had the highest rate of broadband adoption (88.7%).

Age Breakdown

Looking at age demographics, the study found that Americans between the ages of 18 and 24 had the highest level of home broadband usage at 80.8%. From there, Americans between the ages of 25 and 54 all had relatively similar levels of home broadband adoption at rates between 65% and 70%. Older Americans exhibited a big drop off in home broadband use, however, as just 46% of Americans aged 55 or older reported having a home broadband connection.

In terms of race, both white and Asian Americans led the way in broadband adoption, as 65.7% of whites and 67.3% of Asians reported having a home broadband connection in 2009. Hispanics had the lowest level of home broadband use in 2009, with only 39.7%. Both blacks (45.9%) and Native Americans (42.6%) also reported having relatively low rates of broadband adoption.

Unnecessary or Expensive

The study also found that the major impediment to increased broadband adoption in the United States continues to be a lack of demand from non-broadband users. When non-broadband users were asked why they didn't subscribe to broadband, 37.8% said the biggest reason was lack of need, while 26.3% said that broadband was too expensive. In rural areas, 38% said that they didn't need broadband services, while only 11% said that lack of access was the major reason for not subscribing to broadband.

While lack of demand was the chief impediment to broadband adoption, the study also showed that lack of access to broadband continued to be a barrier as well, particularly in rural areas. The report found that 46% of rural households lack access to broadband services, vs.only 34% of urban households. The number of rural households without broadband access has slimmed dramatically over the past two years, however, as 61% of rural households reported having no access to broadband in 2007.

The Department of Commerce collected data for the study by surveying an estimated 54,000 U.S. households and 129,000 U.S. citizens. The data was collected by the department's National Telecommunications and Information Administration, which is in charge of distributing $4.7 billion in broadband stimulus funds to pay for broadband deployment projects across the United States. The federal government last year made broadband deployment a big part of its economic recovery program, as it designated a total of $7.2 billion to fund broadband infrastructure investment in its economic stimulus package.

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