Americans’ Access to Broadband Grows

Published November 1, 2007

Some 47 percent of adult Americans said they had some sort of broadband connection at home as of early 2007–a 5 percentage point increase from a year earlier, according to the most recent survey of about 2,200 citizens conducted by the Pew Internet & American Life Project.

Pew’s most recent estimate, from surveys done in February and March 2007, finds 70 percent of U.S. Internet users have broadband links. About 15 percent of U.S. adults use dial-up connections, representing some 23 percent of home Internet users. (See figures on this page and page 19.) Other users didn’t specify their types of connections.

Possibly Disappointing

Despite the growth, some analysts chose to interpret the survey data as disappointing, as Pew’s report indicates:


“After exhibiting relatively strong growth between early 2005 and early 2006, home broadband adoption in 2006-2007 grew at its slowest rate in recent years,” the research organization said. “As of March 2007, 47 percent of adult Americans say they have a high-speed connection at home, up from 42 percent in early 2006. This 12 percent year-to-year growth rate is much lower than the 40 percent rate in the previous period.”

To illustrate, Pew offered the following pattern of home broadband growth rates:

March 2002-March 2003: 50 percent
March 2003-March 2004: 67 percent
March 2004-March 2005: 20 percent
March 2005-March 2006: 40 percent
March 2005-March 2006: 12 percent

Much Progress

Despite the relatively slow growth on a percentage basis compared with previous years, the number of home broadband users in early 2007 is now roughly as large on a percentage basis as the entire universe of Internet users in the first year of the project’s surveys of online use.

In June 2000, a total of 48 percent of the respondents reported going online via any type of connection to check e-mail or access the Internet.

Pew’s survey findings follow by a few months the newest global estimates that place the United States at 15th in the rankings of broadband public network penetration as of year-end 2006, although the country reportedly stood at 12th only six months earlier. (See “U.S. Broadband Adoption Rank Triggers Debate,” IT&T News, July 2007.)

Among the U.S. adult non-user populations, 27 percent don’t use a computer at work, school, home, or elsewhere, and 2 percent report having access to computers but don’t use them to access the Internet or e-mail.

Rural Use Grows Fastest

In its traditional geographic assessment of the survey, Pew once again singled out broadband penetration in rural areas and communities–a hot button issue in Washington, DC among lobbyists and think tanks.

Home broadband adoption in rural areas was at 31 percent during the survey period, compared with 52 percent among residents of urban centers and 49 percent among suburbanites, according to the Pew survey. “Rural broadband penetration still lags considerably behind the levels in non-rural America,” Pew noted. “But rural broadband continues to experience strong growth rates (albeit from a smaller base of users).”

Between 2006 and 2007, according to the Pew survey, high-speed Internet use among rural adults grew by 24 percent versus 18 percent for urban residents and just 7 percent for suburbanites.

Pew says the gap in broadband penetration between rural and urban/suburban residents includes two elements: The low level of overall Internet use–60 percent of rural adults are Internet users versus 73 percent of urban and suburban adults; and the relatively low level of broadband adoption among Internet users–55 percent of rural Internet users have broadband versus 73 percent of urban and suburban adults.

Extensive Information

The Pew survey offers additional analysis of Internet use and broadband access among various subgroups and demographic criteria, including gender, race, age groups, income and education levels, and Hispanics. It also touches on the types of activities and applications among U.S. Internet users.

Frank Barbetta ([email protected]) writes from Little Falls, NJ.

For more information:

Home Broadband Adoption 2007, a report from the Pew Internet & American Life Project, is available through PolicyBot™, The Heartland Institute’s free online research database. Point your Web browser to and search for document #22046.