Broadband adoptionis emerging as the most significant issue to be resolved in terms of taking steps to close the digital divide. Adoption refers to the number of individuals who subscribe to broadband Internet service. In the broadband industry this is referred to as the “take rate,” or “subscription rate.” In the United States, the issue of Broadband Adoption has been studied and researched since broadband has been available. Determining how many people subscribe to broadband has been difficult due to the proprietary nature of collecting data. To accurately determine the subscription rate for broadband requires analysis of broadband provider’s customer and availability data. Data such as this is considered confidential and proprietary – and has been difficult to receive from providers on a voluntary basis.
The FCC receives all the data necessary to accurately report this statistic. The data is collected on a form called “Form 477,” and includes many elements for an accurate analysis of broadband adoption rates and available speeds. National broadband adoption statistics on a regional level have not been developed using this tool because of objections in the provider community related to the proprietary nature of the information. Instead the FCC publishes a broadband deployment report, dubbed the "706 Report," referring to the section of the Telecommunications Act of 1996 which it refers to. The most recent report stated that 80 million people do not subscribe to broadband, and 14 to 24 million Americans remain without broadband access, with speeds defined by the FCC.Read the 706 Report
Read a summary of the report
Instead the FCC conducted a survey to determine the Broadband Adoption rate in America. Many state and local governments are conducting surveys in a similar manner to determine gaps which exist between subscribers and non-subscribers. This gap is called the “digital divide,” and refers to the percentage of people who are not connected to the Internet,or cannot effective use digital resources.
The most recent FCC Adoption Rate Survey was October 2009. The purpose of the study was to understand the state of broadband adoption, and the barriers facing those who are currently not connected. The FCC interviewed 5005 adult Americans to determine its findings.Report Highlights
Broadband use at home
- 65% of adults use Broadband at home
- 22% do not use the Internet at all
- 57% of non-adopters are woman
- 39% of non-adopters are people with disabilities
- 11% of non-adopters are college graduates
- 32% of non-adopters are age 65 or older
- 43% of non-adopters live in households with annual incomes of $20,000 or less
- 24% of non-adopters live in rural areas
- Affordability Related (Computer, Monthly Fees, Activation) – 30%
- Lack of Relevance or Importance – 26%
- Computer or Internet Skills Related – 16%
- Not Available – 2%
- None of the Above, Combination, Other Reasons - 23%
It is important to understand that while there are great strides still to be made in making universal broadband access available to everyone, the larger problem in terms of the digital divide is with the adoption of broadband Internet in America. What the results of this survey illustrate is that even if we were able to provide broadband to every person in America who wanted it, surveys demonstrate that 22% of Americans would not subscribe. This percentage represents approximately 50 million adults. This does not mean that increasing broadband availability is not critically important. It just demonstrates that increasing efforts related to removing barriers to adoption need to be emphasized.
As availability concerns continue to be addressed by new entrants to the broadband marketplace, the issues which are continually cited in broadband adoption rate studies will be policy priorities for lawmakers in government at all levels.