FCC: 93 Million Americans Without Broadband

  • Broadband Penetration
WASHINGTON, DC – Affordability and the lack of digital skills, far more than availability, are the main reasons 93 million Americans – one-third of the country – are not connected to high-speed Internet at home, according to a new Federal Communications Commission survey. The FCC conducted its survey as part of its research for the National Broadband Plan that it will deliver next month. The survey findings were released at the Brookings Institution yesterday in a report, Broadband Adoption and Use in America.

“We need to tackle the challenge of connecting 93 million Americans to our broadband future,” said FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski. “In the 21st century, a digital divide is an opportunity divide. To bolster American competitiveness abroad and create the jobs of the future here at home, we need to make sure that all Americans have the skills and means to fully participate in the digital economy.”

The FCC survey found that 35 percent of adult Americans do not have high-speed Internet connections at home. Households without broadband connections include approximately 80 million adults and 13 million children over the age of five.

The three main barriers to adoption include

  • Affordability: Twenty-eight million adults do not have home broadband because they cannot afford a computer, the installation fee or the monthly broadband fee (which averages about $41), or because they do not want to enter into a long-term service contract.



  • Digital Literacy: Seventeen million adults either lack the digital skills to use the Internet or are concerned about hazards of online life, such as exposure to inappropriate content or security of personal information.



  • Relevance: Fifteen million adults do not have broadband access because they are either uninterested in the Internet or content with their current dial-up service.


By contrast, only about 10 million adults reported that broadband was unavailable in their neighborhoods.

Non-adopters usually have more than one barrier – often three or more – that keeps them from having broadband service at home. For example, more than half of non-adopters who cited cost also listed reasons relating to digital literacy or relevance.

“The gap in broadband adoption is a problem with many different dimensions that will require many different solutions,” said John Horrigan, director of consumer research for the Omnibus Broadband Initiative. “Lowering costs of service or hardware, helping people develop online skills and informing them about applications relevant to their lives are all key to sustainable adoption.”

The interaction of attitudes and use of communications goods and services creates four categories of non-adopters:

  • Near Converts (30 percent of non-adopters) have high rates of computer ownership and positive attitudes about the Internet. They are relatively youthful compared with other non-adopters, with a median age of 45, and many are dial-up or “not-at-home” broadband users. Affordability is the leading reason for non-adoption among this group.



  • Digital Hopefuls (22 percent) like the idea of being online but lack the resources. Few have computers and even fewer feel comfortable with the technology. Some 44 percent cite affordability as a barrier to adoption and they are also more likely than average to say digital literacy is a barrier. This group is heavily Hispanic and has a high share of African-Americans.



  • The Digitally Uncomfortable (20 percent) are the mirror images of Digital Hopefuls; they have the resources for access – nearly all have computers – but they lack computer skills and have tepid attitudes toward the Internet. This group reports all three barriers: affordability, digital literacy, and relevance.



  • The Digitally Distant (28 percent) do not see the point of being online. Few in this group see the Internet as a tool for learning and most see it as a dangerous place for children. This is an older group, with a median age of 63; nearly half are retired and half say that either relevance or digital literacy are barriers to adoption.

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