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Pew Report: 63% Of Americans Have Broadband

By: Todd Spangler, Multichannel News

While about 63% of the U.S. adult population now subscribes to broadband services as of April 2009 -- up from 55% a year ago -- the average cost of high-speed Internet has also increased, according to the Pew Internet & American Life Project's latest survey on broadband adoption.

"Broadband adoption appears to have been largely immune to the effects of the current economic recession," wrote Pew associate director of research John Horrigan in the report, released Wednesday.

The survey found that 9% of Internet users surveyed said they've cut back or canceled online service in the past 12 months, compared with 22% of respondents who said they cancelled or cut back cable TV service in the last year. In addition, 11% said they had cancelled landline phone service to save money.

Cable's share of the broadband pie increased to 41%, compared with 39% in each of the previous two years, the Pew survey found. In 2009, DSL accounted for 33% of broadband users -- down from 46% last year -- while fixed wireless and satellite connections were at 17% and fiber-to-the-home was 5%.

The mean average monthly bill for broadband service in April 2009 was $39.00, a 13% increase from $34.50 in May 2008. The median average increased to $38 per month versus $32 per month last year, according to Pew's survey.

Among broadband subscribers with one provider in their area, the average monthly bill was $44.70, while broadband users in markets with two or more providers the average was $38.70. Horrigan noted that those differences could be the result of users choices rather than "fundamental price differences" but said the reported price differences between single- and multiple-provider markets were significant even when controlling for such factors as income, education or subscribing to a premium service.

Of broadband users surveyed this year, 34% said they subscribe to a "premium" tier, compared with 29% in 2008. About 53% said they subscribe to a basic tier versus 54% last year, and 10% said they didn't know (compared with 16% last year).

Just 7% of the U.S. population connects to the Internet via dial-up services, about half the percentage on Pew's survey two years ago. When this group was asked what it would take for them to switch to broadband, 32% said prices would need to fall, while 20% said nothing would get them to upgrade and 17% said it would need to become available in their area.

Two groups in particular -- senior citizens and low-income Americans -- had above-average growth in adoption rates in the past year, Pew found. Broadband usage among adults 65 and older increased to 30% in 2009, from 19% last year. About 35% of households with less than $20,000 annual income now have broadband, up from 25% in 2008.

A copy of the Pew report is available here.

Pew surveyed 2,253 adult Americans by phone, including 561 interviewed on their mobile phones. The margin of error is plus or minus 2 percentage points. That sample included 1,332 respondents with high-speed Internet access; the margin of error for results on broadband usage is plus or minus 3 percentage points.

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