According to a new report by the Pew Internet & American Life Project, while almost half of those in the United States now have a broadband connection at home, the rate of broadband adoption is slowing.
Pew conducted a survey of 2,200 Americans in February and March of this year, and found that, at 47 percent, broadband use this year is up slightly from 42 percent in 2006. Of those who access the Internet at home, 70 percent have a high-speed connection.
As a reference point, the 47 percent with broadband at home nearly equals the 48 percent who reported going online at any speed (including dialup), when Pew first began its surveys in 2000.
The Pew report broke down how different segments of U.S. society are adding higher-speed connections. For instance, among middle-income households with annual incomes of $30,000 to $50,000, broadband adoption at 46 percent is close to the general population rate, but it has increased only 3 percent over last year.
Similarly, 15 percent of senior citizens 65 and older have broadband, but that is only up 2 percent since 2006. The 40 percent of Americans between 50 and 64 who have broadband is also up only 2 percent from last year.
John B. Horrigan, associate director of research at Pew, said in a statement that "the low-hanging fruit was picked in 2005," and resulted in strong broadband growth in that year. But bringing broadband to "the remaining hard-to-get adults" will "likely involve showing them the relevance of online content."
There were, however, several groups of Americans that showed significant increases in broadband adoption this year, including African Americans, rural residents, and low-income households. About 40 percent of African American households have high-speed connections, an increase of 8 percent over 2006, and adoption in this group has almost tripled from its 15 percent rate in 2005.
Rural Americans are up 6 percent to about 31 percent. The Pew report noted that rural residents are generally older and therefore less-frequent Internet users. In addition, the Internet infrastructure is less developed in rural areas. While about 71 percent of the general population uses the Internet from some location -- whether in the home, school, or business -- only 60 percent of rural residents do.
Households with annual incomes lower than $30,000 were up 9 percent on broadband use, to 30 percent -- about where the entire country was at the end of 2005.
New Wave a Challenge
The next wave of broadband adoption "will be a challenge," said Bruce McGregor, a senior analyst with industry research firm Current Analysis, noting that many in the target market for broadband -- the college-educated and affluent -- already have broadband.
He said that rates for broadband are at a "very reasonable level" right now, such as $15/month for DSL from AT&T, Verizon, and others. "The price point is there," he said, adding that the community aspect or getting movies on demand could become the driving value.
In contrast to Pew's report, Gartner analyst Amanda Sabia said that her company's research "still forecasts growth." Gartner, which conducted a mail survey of 1,000 households, indicated about 52 percent of those in the U.S. will have broadband by the end of 2007. Gartner projected that by the year 2011 the penetration of broadband into U.S. homes will reach 73 percent.