Broadband Internet subscriptions in US homes peaked in 2013 and has dropped or stayed level over the past two years, according to a new study from Pew Research Center called Home Broadband 2015. Total broadband penetration now stands at 67% of all Americans, down slightly from 70% in 2013. Though the decline doesn’t seem so large, it represents millions of households.
While broadband subscriptions have stalled, the number of “smartphone-only” adults (those who do not have broadband service at home) has been steadily increasing over the past two years. Today about 68% of Americans report that they own a smartphone, and 13% of Americans are smartphone-only — up from 8% in 2013.
Respondents state that price is a key factor for lacking a broadband connection. This makes sense, considering smartphone-only use is highest among those whose salary is less than $20K; it is also relatively high among those who make between $20K and $50K.
About a third of those who don’t have broadband subscriptions say the reason they lack service is due to the monthly subscription cost; another 10% cite the cost of a computer as the main reason. To put it another way: For more than 40% of Americans, having broadband at home is simply too expensive.
We can also conclude from the study that not having broadband Internet access is not the preferred choice. Out of all respondents that don’t have broadband at home, about half state that it put them at a disadvantage for job hunting and learning about or accessing government services. Nearly 40% say getting health information is difficult without a broadband subscription.
What does this mean for Internet service providers? Some go so far as to say that ISPs are failing Americans due to the high prices they charge for broadband. A more cautious but just as dire assertion: The digital divide is here to stay, for the time being at least.
Amy Schein is an Industry Specialist at First Research, where she covers various aspects of the media industry. She earned her BS and MA in media studies at the University of Texas at Austin. Follow Amy on Twitter.