An FCC report released February 23 announced the findings of its National Broadband Plan Consumer Survey, “Broadband Adoption and Use in America.”
The findings reaffirm what Strategy Analytics has been saying for years about the state of Broadband in the United States
. Namely, that in the "metrics that matter," including speed, availability, penetration and price, the US falls woefully behind.
The FCC study finds that 67% of US households “contain a broadband user who accesses the service at home,” in line with the Strategy Analytics estimate
of 63.4% household broadband penetration in 2009. According to the study, 93 million Americans (representing roughly 43 million households) are so-called ‘non-adopters.’
The reasons cited for “non adoption” of broadband include affordability, digital literacy, and relevance. These barriers to adoption will be—and must be—overcome in the near future.
Affordability Remains an Issue in US
Thirty-six percent of the “non adopter” respondents in the FCC study cited affordability as a key barrier to broadband adoption. Indeed, Americans do pay more on per Mbps than most of our peers. When it comes to faster speeds (i.e., above 50Mbps offerings), the “rip off factor”
is even more evident.
We estimate that, on average, Americans pay almost $16 per Megabit received to the home. In Korea, the amount is $2.00. Central to the relatively high cost of broadband in the US is the lack of meaningful competition
. With essentially zero intra-platform competition, service providers have little incentive to innovate offerings beyond par.
Digital Comfort Factor and Relevance
Another notable finding from the study was the importance of digital literacy and ‘relevance’ as barriers to adoption. Twenty-two percent of non-adopters indicated a lack of comfort with the technology, while 19% saw little if any personal relevance. Of the one-third of American households falling under the “non-adopter” category, the largest sub-group doesn’t use the Internet at all. This particular category was older, lower-income, and less educated than occasional non-home users and/or dialup users.
Growth Opportunities Remain
Despite the 93 million unconnected Americans estimated in the report, Strategy Analytics continues to be bullish on the future of broadband in the US. We expect household penetration to breach the 80% mark by 2013. Why?
It’s not surprising that older Americans are more intimidated by (and see less need for) broadband. This group, however, is being replaced by a generation who will have known no world without broadband. They won’t be able to imagine a world without ubiquitous connectivity.
People Come Around
As was the case with non-adopters of microwave ovens, VCRs, cable tv and cell phones, people eventually do come around. Interestingly, 78% of the “Digitally Distant” (non-Internet using) respondents had cable or satellite tv at home, and over half had a cell phone.
Broadband is so tightly woven into the fabric of our culture and society that it is almost impossible to imagine a future devoid of the technology. We truly do live our daily lives online, and the pipe dreams of five years ago are fast becoming reality. Telepresence, a technology until recently dismissed as a niche enterprise application, will be launched to consumer households this year. Telemedicine and distance learning are inching their way into the mainstream of American life.