Broadband Adoption and Use in America

The Federal Communications Commission’s October-November 2009 survey finds that nearly two-thirds (65 percent) of American adults use high-speed Internet connections to go online from home.

The FCC conducted a survey of 5,005 Americans in October and November 2009 in an effort to understand the state of broadband adoption and use, as well as barriers facing those who do not have broadband at home. The main findings are:

  • 78 percent of adults are Internet users, whether that means broadband, dial-up, access from home or access from someplace other than home.
  • 74 percent of adults have access at home.
  • 67 percent of U.S. households contain a broadband user who accesses the service at home.
  • 65 percent of adults are broadband adopters. The discrepancy of two percentage points between household and individual home use is because some survey respondents are nonbroadband users but live with someone who, at home, is.
  • 6 percent of Americans use dial-up Internet connections as their main form of home access.
  • 6 percent are Internet users but do not use it from home; they access the Internet from places such as work, the
    library or community centers.

For the purposes of this report, home broadband users are those who said they used any one of the following technologies to access the internet from home: cable modem, a DSL-enabled phone line, fixed wireless, satellite, a mobile broadband wireless connection for your computer or cell phone, fiber optic, T-1. In other words, home broadband users opt in to that classification through a survey question not by adhering to definition of broadband by speed that might be read to them.

The main dividing lines for access are along socioeconomic dimensions such as income and education.

  • 46 percent of adults whose highest level of education is a high school degree are broadband users at home; 82 percent of adults who have attended or graduated from college are broadband users at home.
  • 52 percent of Americans in households with annual incomes of $50,000 or below have broadband at home, compared with 87 percent of those in households with incomes above that level.
  • Among low-income Americans—those whose annual household incomes fall below $20,000—broadband adoption stands at 40 percent.

African-Americans and Hispanics trail the average in broadband access, although gaps have narrowed since early 2009.

  • 59 percent of African-Americans have broadband at home.
  • 49 percent of Hispanics (English and Spanish speaking) have broadband at home.
  • For Hispanics who took the survey in Spanish, broadband adoption is only 20 percent.
  • For Hispanics who opted to take the survey in English, 65 percent have broadband.

These figures represent increases from levels registered in surveys conducted in early 2009 by the Pew Research Center, which found in April that 46% of African Americans and 40% of Hispanics (English and Spanish speaking) used broadband at home.

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