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Pew's Broadband Home 2010 Research: Is It Truly Representative?

Leonard Grace

A Pew Home Broadband 2010 Summary reports in a sub-headline, a dramatic absence of continued growth in broadband adoption across the United States; while at the same time reporting increases in demographic adoption in a particular ethnic group. That sub-headline seems contradictory by indicating an overly dramatic slowing of adoption.

"After several years of double digit growth, broadband adoption slowed dramatically in 2010. African-Americans experienced broadband adoption growth in 2010 well above the national average."

Home Broadband 2010

Broadband Adoption20092010% Change
All Americans63%66%3%
African-Americans46%56%10%

In fact, indications are that broadband adoption continues to grow as referenced in the % change in those indicators. While it is not an overwhelming mandate that substantial adoption is continuing at a rapid pace; it is a positive referendum.

This change reflects the opinion of those surveyed and depends entirely on their location, circumstance, age or other factors which do not necessarily represent a broader geographical perspective. Results depend on those interviewed, their circumstances and knowledge of broadband in compiling the research. Pew Research methodology encompassed a sample survey of 2,252 adults, age 18 and older representing all adults in the United States who have access to either a landline or cellular telephone.

In further research Pew shares responses of those surveyed about government's role in making broadband a priority:

"By a 53%-41% margin, Americans say they do not believe that the spread of affordable broadband should be a major government priority. Contrary to what some might suspect, non-internet users are less likely than current users to say the government should place a high priority on the spread of high-speed connections."

Methodology (Source)

Pew statistics came from a Princeton Survey Research Associates International project conducted between April 29 and May 30, 2010. To say a representative survey of 2,252 respondents is reflective of all Americans becomes a stretch of anyone's imagination. It can hardly be characterized as being the end-all of statistics for broadband adoption due to the nature of broadband adoption or availability, which includes age, (since seniors are the fastest growing segment of our population and who are not as likely to be adoptive to broadband as much younger constituents.), where those respondents reside, education levels and exposure to broadband knowledge.

In reflecting the purpose of broadband adoption, results would be more substantial if those surveyed were asked thought provoking questions about the benefits of broadband, rather than what do you think of broadband adoption and availability, especially if unaware of the benefits. Those who follow broadband are well aware of the benefits afforded both younger and older generations who adopt the possibilities of its life changing abilities. Proliferation of broadband takes time and effort on the part of all related constituents from consumers, government, educators and businesses, alike.

By Leonard Grace, Founder & Editor - Broadband Convergent
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Share your comments

Leonard:A few points. First, journalists need to Christopher Parente  –  Aug 24, 2010 12:30 PM PDT

Leonard:

A few points. First, journalists need to cut through the cacophony, so they need to stress some angle they think will attract readership. I too have seen coverage that tries to portray this study as showing less demand for broadband.

Second, while it's possible statistically to extrapolate the entire US population from a 2000+ survey sample, I think relying on phone surveys today is increasingly untenable. It naturally skews the sample older, and less tech savvy.

Finally, I don't see why the quote you call out above is surprising. Of course non-users don't think broadband shouldn't be a gov't priority — they haven't experienced it! You can't know what you're missing until you try it.

People should always have choice. The key thing about bb expansion is, make sure lack of broadband is their choice, not the result of bb not being available in their geographic area at reasonable prices.

Leonard:A few points. Leonard Grace  –  Aug 24, 2010 1:54 PM PDT

Christopher, thanks you make some valid points.

There are many nuances that can skew a survey as discussed, and then for it to be reported as a major trend is a stretch. Choice and knowledge of the product being offered is the key in making any intelligent decision, along with the current circumstances of those interviewed. Geographics is a factor if you have no choice or knowledge about the product. If you do not know what your missing, one is less likely to support it, as you stated.

Broadband is more about the future and surveys should be tailored to those affected by its benefits or the lack thereof. As far as government involvement, many Americans would like to see less. Therefore, its role in this instance should be one of incentives for private companies to expand their networks to under served areas, not mandating, but offering choice.

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