So, just who DOESN’T use the Internet?

The New York Times has the story, Broadband Now! So Why Don’t Some Use It? where they ask the question “Why not?”

So for those that have been listening to our podcast Real Tech for Real People, we have talked quite a bit about the numbers of people that don’t have high speed (broadband) internet access.  We have been reporting the numbers we had previously read that had anywhere from 40-45% of the population does not have access.

Okay, I am confused. FCC says 96% of households have, or have access to, broadband.

“No less than 96 percent of households either subscribe to or have access to broadband service, according to an F.C.C. task force, which presented a status report to the commission last month.” (see commission report here)

The article reports that the task force goes on to report that:

  • median speed is 3 megabit/second 1
  • 1/3 of households “choose” to not subscribe

The seem to be dumbfounded that so many households would choose to not get high-speed internet.

“The most interesting question here is the one that the F.C.C. can’t answer: Why have 33 percent of American households that have access to broadband elected not to subscribe? The reasons “are not well understood,” the report says. A survey focusing on the nonadopters is under way.” (see Pew survey for breakdown of demographics)

The astute reader will note a few things here:

  • 33% of “households” does not equal %33 of population.
  • “have access to” is not clearly defined.  Does this mean “can drive to Panera?” Or are sitting under a satellite?
  • The assumption that these households “elect” ( or choose) to not subscribe is a poor assumption
  • There exists a Pew survey (see link above) that actually gives strong hints as to why they don’t have it–so why aren’t they “well understood”?

I have sat through many presentations where the demographics have been dissected ad nauseum, along with conclusions!  Usually it revolves around the high cost of delivery of low quality service to rural areas, $50-$80/month for .5, to 1.5 megbit/second.  Think about that.  If you pay $50 for FIOS for 15 mb/sec service, you are paying the same price for 30 TIMES more speed/capability than the same price for satellite internet, without the latency (lag) issues associated with satellite.  And the satellite internet puts a 17 GB download/month cap on your use! Oh, and with FIOS you can also get TV service, and phone service.

Of course, there are other issues as well, including the fact that some segments of the population prefer to live their “first life” rather than a “Second Life” interacting in a real rather than a virtual world.

But I cannot get past the simple, obvious fact that “access” that is over-priced and under-capable is not really access at all, but political double-speak.

Do you know people without a “broadband subscription” (let’s say, for this discussion, broadband at home)?  Why do you think they have “elected” not to subscribe? Or if they have told you–please share!

Tell me–what do YOU think?  I would like to share your thoughts in our next Podcast that we record Tuesday night, 20 October 2009.

  1. Remember, median means the middle data point, so 50% of the population is less than the median