The US has upped its broadband adoption rates to a respectable 63 per cent of adults connected from 55 per cent a year earlier, according to a study. The jump - boosted by much higher adoption by low income groups - follows a fallow period when the numbers seemed to be stuck at the mid-50s. By Ian Scales.
So says the Pew Research Center, which is conducting an Internet & American Life Project which charts the adoption of broadband and the social impact of technology. The boost seems to have partly due to a catch-up mounted within under-represented groups (those from the wrong side of the digital divide) such as senior citizens - whose adoption rose from 19 per cent in early 2008 to 30 per cent by May this year - and low income groups who together increased their representation from 25 per cent connected about a year ago to 35 per cent connected now.
As you might expect it's college graduates (83 per cent), upper incomers (85 per cent) and the amusingly-named 'older baby boomers' (50 to 64 years) 61 per cent, who drag the average figure up.
The growth spurt seems to confirm broadband adoption as largely immune to the effects of the economic recession, despite the fact that broadband pricing has risen on average from $34.50 to $39.00 over the period of the big increase in penetration to May this year.
Not surprisingly, where there was a choice of providers the average connection cost is considerably lower (up to 25 per cent lower) than where there were two or more providers. On the face of it, evidence of the power of competition to reduce pricing, although part of this difference may be accounted for by the more densely populated (and therefore cheaper-to-serve) areas being more highly contended by multiple providers.
What the study doesn't show (although the headline chosen for the summary and posted up onto websites suggests it does) is that Americans value their broadband connections more than they value their mobile phones.
When asked whether they'd already cut back or cancelled their cable, Internet or cellphone use because of the recession, only 9 per cent said they'd cut back or cancelled Internet, while 22 per cent said they had cut back or cancelled service on both cable TV and cell phone usage.
Since a flat-rate Internet connection doesn't really allow you to 'cut back', only to cancel and go back to dial-up, this is hardly surprising. Cellphones, on the other hand, can easily be squeezed through a change in plan or a simple resolution not to call or text as often - the only surprise is that only 22 per cent of users said they had done it.
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