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Home broadband plateaus

News, 22 December 2015

WASHINGTON, DC: The proportion of Americans with home broadband has dipped to 67% over the past two years while that of smartphone-only adults has risen sharply over the same period.

According to Pew Research Center, a three percentage point decline in home broadband penetration from a peak of 70% in 2013 has left this channel in the same place it was in 2012. The change was "a small but statistically significant difference which could represent a blip or might be a more prolonged reality," it said.

Perhaps more significantly, smartphone adoption is now on a par with home broadband while the proportion of adults owning a smartphone capable of internet access but choosing not to have traditional broadband at home has climbed from 8% in 2013 to 13% today.

"Some of the most significant changes in these adoption patterns are taking place among African Americans, those with relatively low household incomes and those living in rural areas," Pew reported.

A third important development has been the growth of "cord cutters" – some 15% of American adults claim this status – many of whom attributed their decision to move away from subscription television services to the widespread availability of content via the internet and other sources.

But many non-broadband also cited cost factors: one third in a survey of 2,000 adults were put off by the monthly subscription payments while 10% found a phone easier to budget for than a computer.

Further, past Pew Research Center findings have shown that people who only have a smartphone for online access are more likely than other users to hit data-cap limits or to have to cancel or suspend service due to financial constraints.

At the same time as these changes have taken place, there also appears to be greater appreciation of the value of home broadband in certain areas, such as looking for jobs and accessing government information.

Data sourced from Pew Research Center; additional content by Warc staff