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Home broadband use slips as consumers begin to prefer mobile data

by Todd Haselton | December 25, 2015

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New data from Pew Research Enter suggests that home broadband use is on the decline, despite the booming number of popular streaming services and the abundance of content available from those services.

Pew Research found that 67 percent of Americans have a broadband connection at home, down from 70 percent in 2013. That’s a slight slip, but Pew Research thinks of it more of a plateau, suggesting that it won’t see a sharp decline. The reason for the drop, however, is quite interesting. Pew found a correlation between the percentage of adults who own smartphones and the percentage of folks who don’t have broadband Internet at home, and discovered that there’s been a 5 percent increase among those users since 2013.

“Some of the most significant changes in these adoption patterns are taking place among African Americans, those with relatively low household incomes and those living in rural areas,” Pew found, noting a 9 percentage point increase among African Americans who own smartphones but don’t have broadband at home, an 8 percentage point increase among those with a household income under $20,000 per year, and six percentage point increases for rural residents and folks making between $20,000 and $50,000 per year, respectively.

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The main reason for a lack of home broadband, both among folks without any high speed Internet access and folks with mobile Internet, is attributed to high subscription costs. 65 percent of folks without home broadband who own smartphones said that their smartphone does “everything online that [they] need to do,” while 27 percent of those folks suggested that their home connections weren’t fast enough for what they needed.

Even more compelling to me: it seems that cord cutters are relying more on mobile connections to get their “digital content,” even though mobile Internet connections often offer much less data per user. Your wireless carrier might offer you 10GB per month, for example, while home broadband providers may offer far in excess of 10x that. “Those without pay TV – and cord cutters especially  – rely on a different mix of access tools for digital content, a mix that emphasizes smartphones over a home broadband connection.”

Where and how we use the Internet, who uses it, and for what, seems to be slowly changing as mobile broadband speeds now compete with the connections also available in our homes. The report may only show a plateau or a small decline in some use cases, but the trend seems to suggest that cable cutters may need to soon worry not just about folks cutting cable, but folks who also want to cut home Internet.

4K live TV, expected in the coming months, may consume so much data that consumers interested in the sharpest possible media experience may have no choice but to stick with home broadband. Can businesses convince everyone else to do so, too?


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Todd Haselton

Todd Haselton has been writing professionally since 2006 during his undergraduate days at Lehigh University. He started out as an intern with...Todd Haselton has been writing professionally since 2006 during his undergraduate days at Lehigh University. He started out as an intern with...


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