Report

Broadband Adoption At Home In The United States: Growing But Slowing

  • September 22, 2005
  • By John B. Horrigan

The growth in home high-speed Internet adoption, after growing quickly in the past several years, has slowed down and is poised to slow even further, according to a new report released by the Pew Internet & American Life Project.

According to the project's May 2005 survey, 53% of home Internet users go online using broadband connections compared with 50% in December 2004, a small but statistically insignificant increase. This is a slower growth rate than in a comparable time frame a year earlier; from November 2003 to May 2004, home high-speed penetration grew by 20%, from 35% of home users to 42%.

The findings, to be presented this week at the Telecommunications Policy Research Conference (www.tprc.org), show that there is less pent-up demand for bandwidth among today's dial-up internet users relative to late 2002. In combination with almost flat Internet adoption by nonusers, these facts suggest that sustaining a high rate of home broadband uptake will be difficult.

“In 2002, our data showed that lots of dial-up internet users were also very heavy internet users,” said John B. Horrigan, Director of Research at the Pew Internet Project and the report's author. “This meant they were processing a lot of bits online, enduring the dial-up wait, and yearning for more speed. Many of them satisfied that need by converting to broadband connections. There are fewer people hankering for high speed now and that means less pent-up demand for broadband.”

The project's May 2005 data show there is a smaller pool of dial-up users now compared to 2002 and today's dial-up users are less likely to be heavy users of the Internet. Pew Internet's data has shown consistently a pattern whereby people start out their online lives as dial-up users, do more on the internet as they gain more experience, and eventually switch to broadband as they become more dependent on the Internet for information, entertainment, and communication.

“The migration to broadband is happening more slowly for dial-up users in 2005 than 2002,” Horrigan said. “Today's dial-up users are older, less educated, and with lower income than their counterparts in 2002, all factors associated with tepid Internet use. With fewer new internet users coming online these days, the stock of potential broadband subscribers is not being replenished.”