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Study Finds Slowing Broadband Adoption in the U.S.

By Tracey E. Schelmetic, TMCnet Contributor

According to new research by the Pew (News - Alert) Research Center's Internet & American Life Project, the adoption of broadband in the U.S. increased by only five percent from 2009 to 2010, the smallest jump in growth since 2004. Sixty-six percent of U.S. adults now subscribe to broadband services, compared to 63 percent last year. Compare the five percent growth to that of the years between 2006 and 2009, which ranged between 12 and 17 percent. (The greatest growth – 28 percent -- was seen between the years 2005 and 2006.)

The slowing of adoption in broadband markets likely reflects a saturation point for broadband: the remaining 34 percent of non-broadband households do not intend to subscribe (and are generally in the over 64 age group), however the Pew Research study noticed that the drop in household income due to the recession may be a contributor to the sluggish growth.

The survey did find a bright spot of growth, however. Among African-Americans, the adoption rate for broadband in the past year was a lively 22 percent (46 percent of African-Americans had broadband in 2009; that figure has increased to 56 percent in 2010).

The report was based on data from telephone interviews conducted by Princeton Survey Research Associates International between April and May from a sample of 2,252 adults.

The slowing in growth due to a lack of interest from the remaining hold-outs (or because the households are in remote areas where no broadband service is available) may be a challenge to the FCC’s (News - Alert) National Broadband initiative, released last month. The plan states that, “Broadband is a foundation for economic growth, job creation, global competitiveness and a better way of life. It is enabling entire new industries and unlocking vast new possibilities for existing ones. It is changing how we educate children, deliver health care, manage energy, ensure public safety, engage government, and access, organize and disseminate knowledge.”

The FCC is under a mandate from Congress to ensure that all Americans have access to affordable broadband (the word “affordable” may be the wrench in the project). The initiative includes specific and non-specific plans to ensure that the broadband industry remains competitive, including clearing the way for local governments to provide free or subsidized broadband, and to free up and allocate additional spectrum to allow more players into the broadband market, increasing the competition.

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Edited by Stefania Viscusi