Two out of three Americans have access to broadband internet

The adoption of broadband internet access slowed dramatically in the United States over the last year according to a recent survey by the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project.

The researchers found that two-thirds of American adults (66%) now have a broadband internet connection at home, a figure that is little changed from the 63% with a high-speed home connection at a similar point in 2009.

Most demographic groups experienced flat-to-modest broadband adoption growth over the last year. The notable exception to this trend came among African-Americans, who experienced 22% year-over-year broadband adoption growth.

In 2009 65% of whites and 46% of African-Americans were broadband users (a 19-point gap) whereas in 2010 67% of whites and 56% of African-Americans are broadband users (an 11-point gap.)

Asked if expanding affordable high-speed internet access to everyone in the country should be a top priority for the American government, 53 percent of respondents said that expansion of affordable broadband access was “not too important” a priority or should not be attempted at all by the government. IN contrast, 41 percent said it should be a top or important priority.

Contrary to what some might suspect, non-internet users are less likely than current users to say the government should place a high priority on the spread of high-speed connections.

Those who are not currently online are especially resistant to government involvement in broadband promotion. Fully 45% of non-users say government should not attempt to make affordable broadband available to everyone, while just 5% of those who don’t use the internet say broadband access should be a top federal government priority.

In addition to their skepticism towards government efforts to promote widespread broadband adoption, the 21% of American adults who do not use the internet are not tied in any obvious way to online life and express little interest in going online.

They do not find online content relevant to their lives. Half (48%) of non-users cite issues relating to the relevance of online content as the main reason they do not go online.

They are largely not interested in going online. Just one in ten non-users say would like to start using the internet in the future. They are not comfortable using computers or the internet on their own. Six in ten non-users would need assistance getting online. Just one in five know enough about computers and technology to start using the internet on their own.

“As broadband technologies have been adopted in the majority of American homes, a debate has arisen about the role of government in stepping in to ensure availability to high-speed internet access for all Americans,” said Senior Research Specialist Aaron Smith, author of the Pew Internet Project’s new report. “The majority think not, and the surprise is that non-users are the least inclined to think government has a role in the spread of broadband. It could be that the recession is causing Americans to prioritize other issues, or it could be general anti-government wariness. It could also stem from the fact that not many non-users are anxious to see government promoting technologies that they view as difficult to use and offering uncertain benefits.”

The findings come from a nationwide telephone survey of 2,252 American adults conducted between April 29 and May 30, 2010.

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