Home Broadband Adoption Increases Sharply in 2009

Contact: John B. Horrigan, Pew Internet & American Life Project, 202.419.4500


Washington, DC - 06/17/2009 - An April 2009 survey by the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project shows 63% of adult Americans now have broadband internet connections at home, a 15% increase from a year earlier. April’s level of high-speed adoption represents a significant jump from figures gathered by the Project since the end of 2007 (54%). The Pew Internet Project’s new study was released at the Internet Innovation Alliance’s “National Broadband Strategy Symposium” held on June 17, 2009.

The growth in home broadband adoption occurred even though survey respondents reported paying more for broadband compared to May 2008. Last year, the average monthly bill for broadband internet service at home was $34.50, a figure that stands at $39.00 in April 2009.

The growth in broadband adoption indicates that the economic recession has had little effect on decisions about whether to buy or keep a home high-speed connection. The Pew Internet Project’s April 2009 survey found that people are twice as likely to say they have cut back or cancelled a cell phone plan or cable TV service than internet service.

  • 9% of internet users say that in the past 12 months they have cancelled or cut back online service.
  • 22% of adults say they have cancelled or cut back cable TV service in the past 12 months.
  • 22% of cell phone users report that in the past 12 months they have cancelled or cut back cell phone service.
Broadband users were also asked, for the first time in a Pew survey, how they view the importance of broadband to civic and community life. Some 55% of home broadband users said broadband was very important to at least one dimension of their lives and community, such as communicating with health care providers, government officials, sharing information about the community, or contributing to economic growth.

“For many Americans, a home broadband connection is a conduit for connecting to community and economic opportunity,” said John B. Horrigan, Associate Director of the Pew Internet Project and principal author of the report. “That puts broadband in the ‘must keep’ category for most users, even when economic times are tough.”

Looking more closely at different dimensions of broadband prices, the April 2009 survey found that what people pay for broadband varies with the type of service to which they subscribe and the number of providers serving their community.

For different service types:

  • In 2009, 34% of home broadband users said they subscribed to a premium service that gave them faster access speeds, an increase from 29% in 2008.
  • About the same share of home broadband users subscribed to basic service in 2009 (53%) as was the case in 2008 (54%).
    Subscribers to premium service in 2009 paid $44.60 per month for broadband compared with $38.10 for premium home broadband users in 2008.
  • For basic service, broadband users reported a monthly bill of $37.10 in 2009 and $32.80 in 2008.
The survey found evidence that competition in broadband services keeps prices lower:

  • Broadband users who say they have one provider where they live (21% of home high-speed users) report an average monthly bill of $44.70.
  • Among broadband users with more than one provider in their area (69% of home high-speed users), the average monthly broadband bill is $38.30.
  • A subset of home broadband users who say four or more broadband service providers serve their neighborhood (17% of all home high-speed users) reported an average monthly bill of $32.10.
Several demographic groups experienced rapid growth in home broadband adoption from 2008 to 2009:

  • Senior citizens: Those who are age 65 or older had broadband adoption grow from 19% to 30%, or a 58% increase.
  • Low-income Americans: Two groups of low-income Americans saw strong broadband growth from 2008 to 2009.
  • Respondents living in households whose annual household income is $20,000 or less, saw broadband adoption grow from 25% in 2008 to 35% in 2009. This is an increase of 40%.
  • Respondents living in households whose annual incomes are between $20,000 and $30,000 annually experienced a growth in broadband penetration from 42% to 53%, a growth of 26%
  • Overall, respondents reporting that they live in homes with annual household incomes below $30,000 (27% of the sample) experienced a 34% growth in home broadband adoption from 2008 to 2009.
  • Rural Americans: Adults living in rural America, 17% of the sample, had home high-speed adoption grow from 38% in 2008 to 46% in 2009, a 22% increase.
  • Notably, African Americans experienced their second consecutive year of broadband adoption growth that was below average. In 2009, 46% of African Americans had broadband at home. This compares with 43% in 2008. In 2007, 40% of African Americans had broadband at home.
The Pew Internet Project’s April 2009 survey interviewed 2,253 Americans, with 561 interviewed on their cell phones. The overall sample has a margin of error of plus or minus two percentage points. Some 1,687 respondents in the sample were internet users and the margin of error in that cohort is plus or minus three percentage points.

Read the full report Home Broadband Adoption 2009 on the Pew Internet & American Life Project's Web site.

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