A report from the Pew Research Center indicates that the adoption of broadband services in the United States appears to have been largely unaffected by the economic downturn.
The research firm reports that 63 percent of the adult American respondents it surveyed in April had broadband Internet connections at home, versus just 55 percent 12 months earlier. Only seven percent of American Internet users said they still use dial-up connections -- down from 14 percent two years ago.
"Broadband is now in the 'must keep' category for Americans, even when economic times are tough," said Pew Internet Project Associate Director John Horrigan.
No Longer a Luxury
The substantial rise in home broadband adoption rates may seem surprising at first blush. However, researchers note that many Americans are finding the Web to be the best place for accessing information as well as community resources relating to important personal issues such as health care.
Pew reports that 61 percent of American adults are looking online for health information and most are accessing reviews and comments posted by fellow consumers. Health concerns also may help explain why the home broadband adoption rate among American senior citizens aged 65 or older grew from 19 percent in the year-ago period to 30 percent in April.
Many resources for finding and applying for jobs also have become Internet-based, making broadband a necessity rather than a luxury for job-seekers, Horrigan noted. "Many consumers view their home broadband connection as a conduit for connecting to community and economic opportunities," he said.
Many survey respondents indicated they were more likely to economize on communication services than cut back on Internet connectivity. Just nine percent of American Web users said in April that they had canceled or cut back on their Internet services in the previous 12 months.
"For low-income people, especially," Pew researchers noted, "the landline phone was cut, as well as the level of cable-TV service, rather than broadband." They reported 22 percent of all adults said they had canceled or cut back cable-TV service in the past 12 months, with an equal percentage of cell-phone users indicating similar cancellations and cutbacks, they said.
Demand For Higher Speeds
Despite the recession, higher numbers of broadband subscribers also indicated a willingness to pay more for premium service that gives them faster speeds at home. In April, 34 percent of home broadband users indicated they subscribed to a service that gave them faster access speeds -- up from 29 percent in the year-earlier period.
Subscribers to premium service paid an average of $44.60 per month for broadband, versus $38.10 in 2008, Horrigan noted. For basic service, broadband users reported an average bill of $37.10 per month -- up from $32.80 last year.
Still, 21 percent of adult Americans reported they do not have access to the Internet or a broadband service at home due to factors related to the Web's relevance, availability, usability and price. However, Congress recently allocated $7.2 billion for broadband development and charged the Federal Communications Commission with developing a national broadband plan that is expected to address the price and availability issues.
The Pew Internet Project's survey found that American broadband users who say they have just one provider where they live -- equivalent to 21 percent of all home high-speed users -- report an average monthly bill of $44.70. By contrast, the average monthly broadband bill is $38.30 among broadband users with more than one provider in their area, Pew researchers said.