A common refrain among US telecom executives involves the pandemic and how it highlighted the necessity of a broadband Internet connection.
Indeed, it's that notion that's today creating bipartisan support for historic amounts of government spending into expanding broadband in America. Vice President Kamala Harris, who is spearheading the President's broadband efforts, has said the administration's goal is to bring the Internet "to every American household."
But new findings from the Pew Research Center highlight some of the surprising factors driving the digital divide into 2021. (See Broadband Bites: White House frees $1B for broadband on tribal land.)
For example, 71% of respondents to the group's survey who do not have home broadband said they're not interested in getting broadband at home in the future. And 11% of those without broadband said it's because "they are not interested, do not care for it or do not need it," the authors of the study reported.
The findings are important because the Pew Research Center has been studying the issue for years, and its survey results are widely valued. The organization said it conducted telephone interviews on the topic between January and February of this year – during the darkest days of the pandemic in the US – among a national sample of 1,502 adults. Among the very specific details provided by the organization about its methodology, 300 respondents were interviewed on a landline telephone and 1,202 were interviewed on a cellphone, including 845 who had no landline telephone. (Companies touting hopelessly vague survey data on 5G, often based on no quantifiable parameters, may want to take note.)
Overall, the Pew Research Center reported that 85% of respondents said they owned a smartphone, while 77% said they had a home broadband connection. That's up from 81% and 73%, respectively, in 2019.
Of those respondents without home broadband, the organization found that cost was the main reason. Specifically, 45% of non-broadband users said the cost of a subscription is too expensive, while about four in ten cited the cost of a computer as too expensive.
Other reasons respondents cited for their lack of home broadband included the fact they can get it outside their home or that their smartphone supports all their online needs. Twenty-five percent of those without home broadband blamed the situation on the fact that it's not available where they live or not available at an acceptable speed.
The organization found that seven in ten users without home broadband reported they would not be interested in having broadband at home in the future. Another 25% think a home broadband subscription "is something that interests them." The firm said that figure hasn't changed much since its 2019 survey.
— Mike Dano, Editorial Director, 5G & Mobile Strategies, Light Reading | @mikeddano