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FCC Report: 31-Percent of Americans With Broadband Access Won't Adopt It

In anticipation of a sweeping new plan that aims to provide all Americans with broadband Internet access, the FCC has just released a report (PDF link) detailing Internet usage statistics with some fascinating results. The report reveals that 35-percent of Americans do not use broadband at home. But, only 4-percent of these people lack access to broadband where they live, meaning that 31-percent of Americans don't subscribe to broadband for reasons like cost and lack of digital literacy.

Education level (which is frequently concurrent with income) is a deciding mechanism for broadband adoption. Only 46-percent of adults whose highest level of education is a high school diploma have broadband at home; compare that with nearly double the amount (86-percent) of broadband users who have at least attended college.

Cost is definitely a factor. While nearly 52-percent of families with an annual household income of $50,000 or less subscribe to broadband, the incidence jumps to 82-percent for those making more than $50,000 a year. For families pulling in $20,000 and under, the number drops to just 40-percent.

Ethnicity and age also come into account, the report stating, "African-Americans and Hispanics trail the average in broadband access, although gaps have narrowed since early 2009." Broadband penetration rates are higher for African-Americans under 30 (75-percent), but significantly lower (57-percent) for Hispanics under 30. And, while nearly half (48-percent) of individuals over 65 use the Internet, only 35-percent have adopted at-home broadband.

Unsurprisingly, users with advanced digital literacy (i.e., those who better understand terms like "spyware," "cookie," and "widget") use the Internet more heavily. The report thus identifies "cost," "lack of digital literacy" and plain old indifference as key factors in non-adoption.

The FCC breaks down non-adopters into four categories:
  • The "Digitally Distant" are skeptical of the value of the Internet, making up 10-percent of this population. At a median age of 63, nearly half of these users are retired and claim that they do see the Internet's relevance or lack the digital literacy to adopt broadband.
  • The "Digital Hopefuls" are predominantly low-income individuals who cite cost and access to resources as barriers. Less likely to own a computer, over half are either Hispanic or African-American who say they do not feel comfortable with technology.
  • The "Digitally Uncomfortable" are much like the "Hopefuls," making up 7-percent of non-adopters. While they may have higher incomes and own computers, they tend to cite a lack of available infrastructure (such as in rural areas) and remain skeptical of the Internet's value.
  • The "Near Converts" have high rates of computer ownership and tend to either use dial-up or access the Internet from places other than their homes. While this remaining 10-percent of non-adopters view the Internet positively and tend to be younger, most all of them are concerned with the monthly cost of broadband access.
While the FCC is still working out its plan to make Internet service providers offer high-speed access to all customers (to much skepticism), it seems like adoption rates would significantly increase if non-broadband users were taught more about the Internet and were given a cheaper cost of access. If only 4-percent of Americans cannot get access to broadband because of infrastructure, the remaining 31-percent simply need better incentives to make the transition. Estimates put the national access speed at an average of roughly 4 Mbps, which is sure to increase as those 31-percent of non-adopters begin to subscribe to broadband. [From: WSJ]

Tags: broadband, fcc, government, internet, internet access, InternetAccess, report, study, top