The use of broadband Internet in U.S. homes is starting to drop, according to a report released Monday by the Pew Research Center. In fact, just 67 percent of U.S. homes have broadband connectivity, down from 70 percent in 2013 -- the first significant decline in the number of homes with broadband connections, according to Pew’s new Home Broadband report.
The reasons? Mobile technology, to name one. The percentage of users who connect to the Internet using only smartphones, is now at 13 percent, up from 8 percent two years ago.
Digital Divide Persists
Thirty-three percent of those surveyed said the reason they no longer have broadband in their homes is because of the cost. Some said the main barrier was the cost of having computers beyond the mobile devices they already own.
However, although home broadband use is declining doesn’t mean it isn’t still in demand. About 70 percent of those surveyed said that they feared that not having home broadband could make it harder for them to find jobs, or have access to health information or other important data. In fact, the cost of home broadband is of greatest concern to the people who would most likely be helped by the service.
The biggest declines in broadband adoption, not surprisingly, were among lower- and middle-income homes, rural homes, minority homes and among parents of children under 18. The number of smartphone-only adults also rose among low-income households, rural adults, African Americans, Hispanics and parents with school-age children.
Cord Cutting Everywhere
We reached out to Patrick Moorhead, principal analyst at Moor Insights & Strategy, to ask whether the results of the Pew survey indicated the shift from one delivery system to another (i.e., mobile), or a sign of a greater cord-cutting trend.
"There are a few moving parts here," said Moorhead. "There’s a cost issue with certain demographics; they’ll just use their smartphone to get on the Internet, even if it’s slower. The perceived cost of a PC is a factor, too, (which is ironic) given that PCs are less expensive than smartphones. Some consumers, if they had to choose between a smartphone data plan and a broadband plan, are opting for the smartphone."
The Pew survey found that overall, Internet access via either smartphones or home broadband subscriptions has changed little since 2013. Some 80 percent of adults either have smartphones or home broadband subscriptions in 2015, compared with 78 percent in 2013.
The research firm also said that 15 percent of adults have dropped traditional pay TV service in favor of TV and movies streamed online -- 24 percent of homes do not have pay TV service.
For the report, Pew surveyed more than 6,000 Americans aged 18 or older in September 2013 and in three separate surveys in 2015.