FCC report profiles broadband non-subscribers in the U.S.

We’re about a month away from the Federal Communications Commission’s announcement of its National Broadband Plan, and it’s clear that the agency is in full gear to figure out how exactly it needs to approach the issue of broadband adoption in America. Last week, the FCC released a report that detailed some of their initial goals with the plan, including setting the goal for 100Mbps broadband across the country.

Now the Wall Street Journal points to another report centered on broadband adoption trends in the U.S. Entitled “Broadband Adoption and Use in America” (PDF), the report compiles the results from a recent FCC phone survey of 5,005 adults living in the U.S.

It details the usual broadband adoption statistics — for example, 35 percent of Americans aren’t using broadband at home — but most interesting is the report’s profiling of broadband non-subscribers. According to the FCC, only 4 percent of Americans have no access to broadband at all, which leaves 31 percent who choose not to subscribe.

In trying to figure out what’s keeping those users from subscribing to broadband, the FCC compiled the following profiles:

  • Digitally Distant: 10% of Americans who are generally older, and have found no use for the Internet, or don’t own a PC.
  • Digital Hopefuls: 8% of Americans who would like to subscribe to broadband, but can’t afford it.
  • Digital Uncomfortable: 7% of Americans who have computers, and can actually afford broadband, but lack the skills to take advantage of either.
  • Near Converts: 10% of Americans who use dial-up, and refuse to pay the $40+ subscription fees for broadband. Their median age is around 45, and they tend to rely on broadband at work for online activities.

In my past life as an IT support jockey, I’ve come across individuals who fit snugly into these profiles. That the FCC identified these broadband non-subscribers so well is a good sign, because it means that its efforts to promote broadband in the future could be targeted specifically towards these groups.

In addition to the obvious changes, like making broadband more affordable, the report reminds us that we also need to convince average users why they need broadband in the first place.


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