U.S. Not Lagging or Stalling In Broadband Adoption

Today, PEW released new data talking to the broadband growth rates in the U.S and way too many bloggers and news sites are writing headlines like "Broadband Internet Adoption Stalls", which is inaccurate. Some new sites start off by saying things like "Broadband growth in the United States has
effectively stalled over the past five months…." But then when you
read the PEW release, it turns out it has grown in three out of four
segments. So it is not fair to say that it has "stalled", as a general
statement. Yes, it has stalled for those with income under $20k a
year, but then say that in the text up-front, especially considering
the three other segments all saw growth of at least 23%.

The PEW data and report is very clear and the numbers speak for themselves. Yes, news sites want to spin the numbers in their favor to make grand headlines, without taking all the data into account. This report seems very similar to the one
that many people in our industry seem to want to quote that says the U.S. is
15th out of 30 countries in broadband adoption. That could not be further from the truth.

The PEW report is the first one I have seen to really address the EVDO
and WiFi connections, which clearly are showing a lot of growth. As
much as people want to say the U.S. is lagging behind in broadband
growth, the fact remains that the U.S. has more broadband connections, over 100 million, than anyone else. The U.S. got the top ranking from the World Economic Forum
calling our Internet infrastructure one of the world’s best and Verizon
alone, has more fiber customers today than exist in all of Europe.

Data from Verizon also says that "more than three-quarters of American
households have access to at least two different broadband platforms,
and many have six or more choices — whether it’s FiOS, U-Verse, EVDO,
Wi-Fi, DSL, or cable". That’s more broadband options that any other
country has. And one of the biggest problems with the reports that
compare the U.S. to other countries is the fact that none of them take
into account the differences in geography and population density that
make it nearly impossible to compare one country to another and don’t include WiFi connections.

In addition, PEW and others don’t take into account upgrades that Verizon or others make in their network for current
customers. When I started with Verizon, I had a 15Mbps connection. Over
the past few years, it’s been upgraded to 20Mbps. Yet, since I am not a
"new" customer signing up, my increase in speed is not shown in the PEW
report as they are counting new broadband subscribers only. I’m not a new
subscriber, but I have a faster connection which should account for
something.

Also, most of these reports only take into account wired broadband connections to the home. What about broadband connections for small businesses, where a lot of people access the Internet every day? Or from an enterprise? If we are trying to get a true picture of how people access the Internet, then connections at small businesses, of which there where over 30 million in 2007, have to fit into the overall picture. Why aren’t those included? Many people spend the majority of their time on the Internet during the day, from work. Why is it that the home market for broadband seems to be the one that we look at, by itself, and then devise all of our statistics from that one segment?

Some sites are also saying that, "broadband growth over the previous 12 or 13 months has dramatically tapered off." From 2006-2007 broadband growth was 12% and from 2007-2008 it was 17%. The PEW report says the growth was "comparable" yet many took that to mean slowing. Why is 5% growth year over year considered slow? And how can you say what the true growth rate for 2008 is when the year is only half over? If you are dealing with numbers and data, give it to your readers straight. Don’t try and make it sound worse or better than it is just to make a good headline. The data speaks for itself.

  • mike

    love to see this discussion! It’s great to see you all working through the issues and also, it’s great to see recommendations for testing. In the end, it’s what your actual users do and prefer that should be your biggest driver in making these decisions.