A new study from the Pew Research Center shows that the in-home high-speed line may be on the decline. The change between 2013 and 2015 – a drop from 70% of households to 67% -the first time this number has declined.
The multi-page report looks at all aspects of high-speed web use, and notes that the rising use of a smart phone to access the Web in a high-speed way is supplanting some of that use. Interestingly, however, more people responded to the survey saying that not having a high-speed connection in the home was a disadvantage. About two-thirds of respondents say not having a home high-speed connection would become a major disadvantage to finding a job, getting health information or accessing other key information. That’s up from 56% two years ago.
It appears consumers see the value of broadband, but perhaps not enough to overcome the key reason that some are dropping service – cost. Of those that do not have a high-speed connection, 43% listed cost as a factor – that broke down to 33% said the subscription cost was too high, while 10% said the computer was too expensive.
The other 57% listed a range of reasons why they don’t have high-speed Web access including the fact that their smartphone does the job, they have options outside the home, service is not available or sufficient (I wonder if those were farmer respondents), and 30% had some other reason or refused to give a reason.
For farmers who are increasingly looking to moving data from machines to office or from machine to trusted advisers, higher speed access remains an important business tool. This study is looking at personal use, but frankly farmers get internet in their homes, which is often where the office is.
The survey also connected with non-adopters – people who’ve never had the internet in their homes to learn more about their habits. Of those, 40% said they were at a major disadvantage versus just 25% in 2010. And more than one-third responded that lacking broadband at home was a disadvantage for learning new things that might enrich their lives. That’s up from one-quarter in 2010.
Digging into the numbers showing decline in broadband to the home, rural respondents showed only 55% had broadband in the home versus 60% two years ago. That may be because cellular service is the better way to access the web, since smartphone use as the primary source for web access rose from 8% to 13% - that’s basically a 50% increase in people relying on smartphones versus 2013.
It’s always difficult digging into a major report and making any conclusions, however, the trend toward more smartphone use for Web access is clear. And while people list cost as a reason they don’t have home broadband, the higher data-line costs of a smartphone don’t appear to be a problem.
Rural America needs a reliable infrastructure to maximize business and stay informed. That may not be true of the average American consumer, based on this new report.