A new study suggests that even if broadband were universally available in the U.S., one-quarter of all American adults simply will not want it, a good portion of those because they won’t want to pay for it at current prices.
Despite that, there’s still potential for greater broadband penetration in the U.S. The Pew Internet & American Life Project conducted the survey, expecting the results to be useful in crafting more effective broadband policy.
Roughly one-third of all U.S. adults don’t have broadband. Barriers include high prices, a lack of interest and a lack of availability.
Much of the discussion around broadband policy revolves around access in underserved and unserved areas. About 14 percent of survey respondents said they have no access to broadband.
But only 3 percent said that lack of availability was the main reason they don’t get broadband. In other words, even if broadband were to become universally available in the U.S., about one-quarter of all adults still wouldn’t subscribe.
About 6 percent of all U.S. adults say broadband is simply too expensive.
Source: Pew Internet & American Life Project
“The price barrier might be addressed in the [President Barack] Obama package, as has been proposed by Free Press and others, by changing the Lifeline and Link-up programs that presently provide subsidies for telephone access so that the programs can also subsidize home broadband access,” read the report, written by John B. Horrigan, associate director for research with the Pew Internet & American Life Project.
Other barriers to adoption include a lack of usability (respondents who say that dealing with broadband is too difficult, etc.) and a lack of relevance, a catch-all category meant to include respondents who did not want to get broadband because they saw no benefits in broadband, or could not articulate reasons for their lack of interest.
Finally, the survey also tried to gauge the need for speed. It found that 29 percent of broadband subscribers are paying for something higher than the base tier offered by their providers.
Pew’s conclusions: “… If more and faster broadband is provided, will people come? The analysis here suggests that the answer is “yes,” but that it may take longer than some advocates anticipate. To be sure, targeted efforts to address infrastructure gaps and cost barriers could, within a few years, boost broadband adoption by as much as 10 percentage points. And one-third of existing broadband subscribers are low-hanging fruit to adopt faster broadband soon after it is available. However, one-in-five Americans currently don’t have broadband for reasons that won’t be addressed by price cuts or a fiber node in the neighborhood. It will take time to get them up and running on broadband – probably longer than the impacts of the stimulus package are intended to last.”
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