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Almost 99% of Americans Have Broadband Access, Only 72% Adopt

October 22, 2014

iStock_000003994351MediumAccording to a new survey from the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), nearly 99 percent of the U.S. population has access to fixed or wireless broadband. Telecompaper says in 2007 151 million Americans could access broadband while at least 187 million can today.

Additionally, according to John Eggerton at Multichannel News, more Americans than ever have access to mobile broadband. Indeed, the NTIA report found 88 percent of U.S. residents have mobile phones, many of which enable them to use mobile broadband. Over the last few years, mobile phone usage has increased among people with disabilities and among minorities where “Disparities in mobile phone adoption that remained between whites and minorities appeared to nearly vanish between 2011 and 2012.”

What has not increased as rapidly, Eggerton says, are broadband adoption rates. In 2000, 68 percent of Americans had adopted broadband in their homes, 12 years later (the NTIA report looked at 2012 Census data) only 72 percent of Americans utilize broadband.

Why?

The biggest reason, according to the NTIA survey, is “lack of need or interest.” Nearly half of those surveyed who have not adopted broadband cited this as their reason. About one-third cited broadband costs while 11 percent said they don’t have broadband because they don’t have a computer or device that relies on it.

These numbers lead to some very important conclusions for policymakers. The Coalition for the New Economy has argued repeatedly that there is a place for government when it comes to broadband: to advocate for increased adoption. And with access rates near 100 percent and adoption rates stagnating, it’s clear that role is not to do what the private sector has already done and continues to do (enhance access), but to educate the public about why broadband is so important to their daily lives.

Municipalities that want to start their own government-owned network should instead take some of those funds and use it for a public broadband education program … Educate citizens about how access to broadband isn’t important only for social media and email, but because it improves health care and education outcomes, helps expand the economy and is an important tool for the city’s first responders and for citizens during a crisis.

These programs will not only be a lighter burden to taxpayers, they’re also very likely to help to bring up those stubbornly low U.S. adoption rates.