New data: 40 percent in US lack home broadband

Feb 16, 2010 By JOELLE TESSLER , AP Technology Writer

(AP) -- Roughly 40 percent of Americans do not have high-speed Internet access at home, according to new Commerce Department figures that underscore the challenges facing policymakers who are trying to bring affordable broadband connections to all Americans.

The Obama administration and Congress have identified universal broadband as a key to driving economic development, producing jobs and bringing educational opportunities and cutting-edge medicine to all corners of the country.

"We're at a point where high-speed access to the Internet is critical to the ability of people to be successful in today's economy and society at large," said Larry Strickling, head of the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), an arm of the Commerce Department that released the data Tuesday.

The NTIA and the Rural Utilities Service, part of the Agriculture Department, are in the middle of handing out $7.2 billion in stimulus funding for broadband. Most of that money will be used to build networks in parts of the country that lack high-speed Internet access.

And next month, the will deliver policy recommendations to Congress on how to make universal broadband a reality. Among other things, the FCC is expected to propose expanding the fund that subsidizes telephone service in poor and rural communities and finding more airwaves for .

The NTIA report released Tuesday stems from a survey of about 54,000 households conducted in October of last year. The statistics show that U.S. broadband usage continues to grow, with 64 percent of U.S. households subscribing to high-speed Internet as of October, up from 51 percent two years earlier.

But the results also highlight remaining hurdles, particularly in rural America. While 66 percent of urban households subscribed to broadband in October, that was true for only 54 percent of rural households, the survey found.

That is partly because broadband is not as widely available in rural areas. The phone and cable companies that provide the bulk of broadband connections in the U.S. have been slower to build high-speed systems in places that are too sparsely populated to justify the costly network investments.

Lack of broadband availability is only part of the challenge for Washington, however - because even in places where broadband is available, not everyone subscribes. Among households that do not have broadband, the survey found, 38 percent said they don't need it or are not interested. Twenty-six percent said it is too expensive. Only 3.6 percent said they do not subscribe because it is not available where they live.

For policymakers, Strickling said, this means that helping people see "what they are missing" is another important piece of the puzzle. Last year's stimulus bill set aside at least $250 million for broadband adoption programs to teach people computer and Internet skills and ensure they have the equipment to get online.

Other key survey findings include:

- 89 percent of Americans with an annual household income greater than $150,000 used a at home in October, compared with 29 percent of Americans with a household income less than $15,000.

- 67 percent of Asian Americans and 66 percent of Caucasians used broadband at home in October, compared with 46 percent of blacks and 40 percent of Hispanics.

- Home broadband usage was highest among people aged 18 to 24, at 81 percent, and lowest among people 55 and older, at 46 percent.

Explore further: One man trying to bring Broadway into 21st century

4 /5 (1 vote)
add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Survey: Elderly, poor narrow broadband service gap

Jun 18, 2009

(AP) -- Some groups that have lagged in signing up for high-speed Internet service, like the elderly, the poor and rural residents, have started to gain on those who have had a head start, according to a new survey.

Broadband usage up

Sep 28, 2005

Two out of every five Americans have broadband access at home, according to a report by Nielsen/NetRatings.

FCC offers early peak at national broadband plan

Dec 16, 2009

(AP) -- Expanding the fund that subsidizes telephone service for poor and rural communities and finding more spectrum for wireless broadband services will be key pieces of a federal plan to bring high-speed Internet connections ...

Obama administration seeks more wireless spectrum

Jan 04, 2010

(AP) -- The Obama administration is calling on federal regulators to make more radio spectrum available for wireless Internet services to compete with broadband plans provided by the major phone and cable companies.

Recommended for you

Cutting congestion on the data network highway

Sep 12, 2014

Perhaps no other consumer-driven technology has made such incredible advances in such a relatively short space of time as the mobile phone. Today's smartphones are used to stream videos, access social media ...

T-Mobile to sell phones that call, text on Wi-Fi (Update)

Sep 10, 2014

T-Mobile will sell more than 100 smartphone models with a built-in feature that taps into Wi-Fi networks to make phone calls and send texts when customers can't connect to the wireless carrier's cellular network.

User comments : 1

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

david_42
not rated yet Feb 16, 2010
Cabling rural areas will never pay. Running fiber to my house would cost thousands of dollars. Rural areas would be better served by WiMax or a similar over-the-air technology.