According to a new report from the Pew Internet & American Life Project, broadband adoption seems to have plateaued in the last year, after steady growth. The number of adults with broadband at home in this year's survey was 66 percent, not statistically different from last year's 63 percent. In one bright spot, broadband use among African Americans increased by 10 percentage points, from 46 percent to 56 percent.
But what I find most interesting is the non-users, and people who don't think it's something useful. When they asked what they thought of "expanding affordable high-speed internet access to everyone in the country," 26 percent said it was something the government shouldn't do at all, and another 27 percent said it was "not too important a priority." Since they haven't yet done (or reported, anyway) much of the multivariate analysis that would help us sort this stuff out, we'll have to guess at why this is. Some of it may be trendy anti-government sentiment among conservatives, but a significant portion of it is coming from people who don't now use the Internet at all (21 percent of people surveyed). Almost half of these non-users didn't think the government should even be trying to get people on the infobahn. And although Pew didn't tell us, I'll bet anything most of that 21 percent is older people.
That doesn't mean that everyone who wants broadband has it -- there are entire communities out there that still have access to nothing but dial-up, which makes it frustrating to get online from home, and almost impossible to do business online. But there is still a significant hunk of the American population that thinks this series of tubes is a flash in the pan.
-- Paul Waldman