Many Without Broadband Just Don't Want It

President Barack Obama may want to bring broadband service to every community in the nation, but it the Pew Internet & American Life Project released survey results this week that indicate that may not be enough to get some to use it.

Some might say, "Well, so what? If people want it, they want it. If they don't, they don't. No one has to use it." But, Pew says, there are indications that Obama would attempt to use at least part of the economic stimulus to achieve these goals.

The survey showed that about a quarter of American adults don't use the Internet. Of those adults, fully a third told Pew they're just not interested. Period. Those don't include those who don't have access (13 percent of those not online), those who say it's too expensive (7 percent), those who are too busy (7 percent) or those who feel they are too old to learn or are physically unable (3 percent apiece).

Obama's plan might address issues of accessibility and cost, and potentially even other issues such as disability, though details have yet to emerge.

Now, granted, that third of non-users who don't want to go online only account for 8.3 percent of all adults. But then add in another 1.7 percent of dial-up users who say you couldn't get them to switch for any reason and you have fully 10 percent of all adults who say they have no interest in getting broadband to get online.

An earlier survey by Pew found that 29 percent of broadband users already pay a premium for speeds faster than the standard package. The rest take what's advertised (or, Pew points out, don't know they're paying extra for the faster speed). But many would be happy to adopt even faster speeds if available.

So what does that mean for Obama's plan?

To be sure, targeted efforts to address infrastructure gaps and cost barriers could, within a few years, boost broadband adoption by as much as 10 percentage points. ... However, one-in-five Americans currently don’t have broadband for reasons that won’t be addressed by price cuts or a fiber node in the neighborhood. It will take time to get them up and running on broadband -- probably longer than the impacts of the stimulus package are intended to last.

And so, Pew's survey concludes, more people will adopt broadband if it's offered, and many will latch onto high-speed broadband the second they can. But it's not going to happen fast enough or comprehensively enough to get the full benefits from Obama's economic stimulus package.
Tags:  Broadband, Internet