A higher number of Americans than ever before cite distinct advantages to having broadband access, but overpriced broadband subscription plans are keeping widespread broadband adoption in check, according to new research from Pew.
67 percent of Americans now have in-home broadband, but that number is actually down slightly from 70 percent in 2013, as more people cut cords to cut costs. Pew researchers John Horrigan and Maeve Duggan say the dip is “a small but statistically significant difference which could represent a blip or might be a more prolonged reality. This change moves home broadband adoption to where it was in 2012.”
The research shows that while in-home adoption is going down, more people are moving to smartphone-only service for internet access. And, as providers like T-Mobile launch services like “Binge On,” which allow for streaming over cellular plans without high additional data costs, that number may continue to go up. Smartphone use has already reached parity with in-home broadband subscription rates, with many new smartphone users coming from lower-income and rural areas.
It’s not hard to see why this would be the case. CivSource has reported extensively on the myriad attacks big providers like Comcast, Verizon and others are waging against municipal broadband networks as well as the expansion of rural broadband. Municipal broadband networks have been able to offer comparable service at a lower cost and in areas where the big providers have no intention of building. Elsewhere, when providers like Google Fiber come in, subscription costs go down as traditional providers try to remain competitive against Google’s plans. But, until price competition is the norm nationwide, people in areas without affordable broadband plans will have to find other options like going smartphone-only.
According to the report, two-thirds of those without regular broadband access say that it is a major disadvantage when it comes to finding a new job or accessing government or other information. This view further underscores the need for net neutrality and a range of subscriber options including municipal broadband. Both net neutrality rules and efforts by the FCC to enable municipal broadband networks are currently in court facing legal challenges from incumbent providers. The providers argue that they are expanding networks and doing the best that they can, however, as DSL Reports noted last week even when providers like AT&T announce a network expansion there are no guarantees a network actually materializes. This has also been the case with Verizon FIOS.
Read the full set of Pew data here.