The latest Pew internet survey, which is conducted annually (though not always with the same questions) was released today. It’s an overview of the demographics of internet access in the United States. Who has access? Who doesn’t? Who’s using smartphones but not broadband? Are there still people using dial-up? Who are those people? Why isn’t the head of Time Warner in jail for crimes of substandard customer service? Questions like these, except the last one, which is unanswerable by man or god, have been answered.
Pew’s study found, not surprisingly, that the most likely broadband internet users are white, young (18-29 years old), wealthy ($75,000+ income), male, with a college degree, and living in the suburbs. That number drops as you move outside of those respondents: women have only a very slightly lower rate of broadband use, but those with no high school diploma have barely more than a one in three chance at having broadband, compared to 89 percent among those who hold a college degree. Income and age are the other starkest divisions; those over 65 years old and those making less than $30,000 are near to having a mere one in two chance at broadband.
Mobile could be seen as a fix for this, and indeed, 10 percent of respondents said that they have mobile broadband but not home broadband. Mobile broadband is quicker and cheaper to set up, and has a higher profit margin for companies like Verizon and AT&T, which leads to them blanketing the country with it. But that still leaves 20 percent of Americans with neither mobile nor at-home broadband.
Lastly, a word about the results of the 2,252-person survey: Pew does not provide a lower limit for “broadband” speed. Broadband has no formal definition; some take it to mean anything that’s not dial-up, which would include DSL, cable, and fiber-optic connections. Some would include high-end mobile networks like 4G LTE. Some would include the previous generation of mobile network, 3G. Some would include cable and fiber-optic but not DSL. It’s all very vague! And the differences aren’t small; they could be the difference between using the internet with essentially no speed restrictions and having to limit use to one conscientious user at a time.
Read more over at Pew.