HJ-ED-DHJHerald Journal Columns
July 9, 2007, Herald Journal

Broadband connection growth is slowing

By MARK OLLIG

Last month, the Pew Internet and American Life Project released a new study on individuals using high-speed broadband for accessing the Internet.

I was surprised to learn that high-speed broadband connection growth actually was lower than the previous year.

The Pew Internet & American Life Project is a non-profit organization, which produces reports that explore the impact of the Internet on families, communities, work and home, daily life, education, civic and political life. The Project aims to be an authoritative source on the evolution of the Internet through its collection of data and analysis of real-world developments as they affect our online world.

Pew releases 15 to 20 research papers each year, which cover a wide variety of topics.

The following findings come from a random survey of 2,200 adult Americans conducted during February and March of 2007.

This recent survey shows that 70 percent of U.S. households have an internet connection. Of those that do, 47 percent have high-speed broadband Internet access in their homes.

This same survey shows that of the total adults using the Internet 70 percent are women and 71 percent are men.

Based on age, the Pew survey shows that 87 percent of users on the Internet are 18-29 years old, followed by 83 percent who are 30-49, 65 percent are age 50-64 and the seniors (65+) make up 32 percent of the Internet users.

When the survey asked folks what their household income was and if they used the Internet, 55 percent of those earning less than $30,000 per year said they use the Internet.

Sixty-nine percent whose household income was $30,000-$49,000 per year replied that they use the Internet.

Eighty-two percent of those with yearly household incomes of $50,000-$74,999 responded that they are using the Internet.

Of those earning over $75,000 per year, 93 percent of those polled said they use the Internet.

“I think we’re at a point where many people in the upper socioeconomic groups now have broadband,” said John Horrigan, associate director for research at Pew. “You’d expect to see growth continue, but it’s going to be in fits and starts.”

Larger city areas and affluent households are the most common users of broadband with around 52 percent of urban and 49 percent of suburban residents having high-speed connections. In contrast, only 31 percent of rural Americans have it.

Horrigan went on to say that, “. . . Those with limited household incomes will need to be convinced that broadband is worth the monthly cost of $20-$40.”

It was interesting to note that 23 percent of home users are still using dial-up phone connections to access the Internet.

High-speed broadband or an “always on” connection allows Internet users to engage more frequently in a wider range of online activities than dialup users.

Pew Research’s early 2007 survey shows that 91 percent of all Internet users send or read e-mail and that 83 percet are looking for information about a hobby.

Seventy-two percent of those polled said they use the Internet to get news while online.

Internet users looking for research related to their jobs equaled 51 percent.

Pew specifically asked over 2,000 adults in the survey if they look for information on Wikipedia; 36 percent responded that they did.

Online activities including blogging and reading other’s online journals accounted for 29 percent from all Internet users polled.

Being online to look for religious or spiritual information on the Internet came in at 35 percent.

Because broadband users are more likely to go online on a daily basis than dialup users, this tendency among broadband users is particularly prominent when looking at the activities broadband and dialup users engage in on a typical day.

Broadband connection growth year-to-year shows that from March 2002 to 2003 the growth was 50 percent.

An amazing 67 percent in broadband growth was seen from March 2003 to 2004.

From March of 2004 to March 2005, a 20 percent increase was seen and 40 percent growth in broadband Internet access from March 2005 to March 2006.

The lowest percentage in growth was the year that spans March of 2006 to this past March 2007; that growth was only 12 percent.

A tool I use for measuring the speed of my home broadband Internet connection is called “Speed Test.” It is located at: http://www.speedtest.net. When you get there, click on the server icon located in Minnesota (Twin Cities, MN will appear when your mouse goes over this icon).

At the end of each test, you are presented with the download (the speed of data from the server to your computer) and upload (the speed of sending data from your computer to the server) bandwidth speeds. The tests are performed completely within your web browser over HTTP (just like normal web browsing).

The results for my broadband connection were 11.3Mbps downloading, and 1.2Mbps uploading.

You can learn more about the Pew Internet and American Life Project at www.pewinternet.org.