Broadband Growth to Slow

The latest set of data from the Pew Internet & American Life Project shows that after a 50% increase in home broadband adoption last year, the growth pace is likely to slow soon.

John B. Horrigan, Senior Research Specialist at Pew, says that there are two factors suggesting growth may be moderating. "First, fewer experienced dial-up Internet users - the prime candidates to upgrade to high-speed connections - now say they want broadband than a year ago," Horrigan writes in the report, titled Adoption of Broadband to the Home. "Second, dial-up users who are most likely to say they would like to get broadband at home are the ones who say it is not available in their neighborhood."

Nevertheless, the report says, about 13% of the dial-up Internet population seems ripe to migrate to broadband service. These users have been online for 6 or more years and say they are interested in moving to broadband. And - importantly - they have online behavioral patterns similar to existing broadband users. That is, they are already active information producers and gatherers, which are distinctive characteristics of Internet users who today have broadband at home.

Pew data show that as of the end of March 2003, 31% of home Internet users had a high-speed connection at home. This is up from 2 in October 2002 and 21% in March 2002. Today, approximately 30 million people - or 16% of all Americans - log on at home with a broadband connection. That is double the number who had a high-speed connection at home at the end of 2001 and, as noted, a 50% increase in the past year. In 4%

In not quite three years, the United States has witnessed a five-fold increase in the number of people who go online with a fast connection at home. Even with the fast pace of broadband adoption, there are concerns that it may not be fast enough, particularly in contrast to countries such as South Korea and Canada. In those countries, half of all households have high-speed connections. Although about a third of home Internet users in America have signed up for broadband, many wonder why more haven't done so. In our surveys, it is difficult to probe why some Internet user do not choose to get broadband connections. After all, they have chosen not to buy something about which they may know very little. We do, however, ask whether dial-up users want broadband and whether Internet users know whether broadband service is offered to their neighborhood.

According to a survey we conducted from October 7, 2002 through October 27, 2002 of 1,677 Americans, 71% say that they live in an area where broadband service is available; 12% say they cannot get broadband service at home, with the remainder (17%) saying they don't know whether service is available or not. People who report they cannot get broadband are twice as likely to live in rural areas as the general population. But even with the widespread availability of broadband, most dial-up users say they are content to stick with their dial-up modem. Nearly three in five (57%) of dial-up users say they have no interest in having a faster connection at home, while 38% say they would like to upgrade to broadband. The numbers reverse, however, for those who say broadband is not available in their area. Among these people, 61% say they would like to have a faster connection with 35% saying they're not interested in an upgrade.2 It seems that those who want broadband the most are those who can't get it.

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