Home Broadband Adoption in Rural America

  • February 27, 2006
  • By John Horrigan and Katherine Murray

24% of rural Americans have high-speed internet connections at home compared with 39% of urban and suburban dwellers 

Rural Americans lag the rest of the nation when it comes to use of high-speed Internet connections at home, as well as basic measures of online penetration. However, rural areas show fast growth in home broadband uptake in the past two years and the gap between rural and non-rural America in home broadband adoption, though still substantial, is narrowing.

By the end of 2005, 24 percent of rural Americans had high-speed internet connections at home compared with 39 percent of adult Americans living elsewhere. In 2003, 9 percent of rural Americans had broadband at home, less than half the rate (22 percent) in urban and suburban American. For overall internet use - by whatever connection from any location - the penetration rate for adult rural Americans lagged the rest of the country by 8 percentage points at the end of 2005 (a 62 percent to 70 percent margin). This is about half the gap that existed at the end of 2003.

A consequence of the rural broadband adoption gap is that people in rural America use the internet less frequently, on average, than other Americans and do fewer things online on the average day than urban and suburban users. This is not because rural Americans have different tastes about the internet than people in cities or suburban areas; it is because rural Americans, in the aggregate, have a lower penetration rate for a key factor behind the intensity of online use - a home high-speed Internet connection.