Pew Study Shows the Depth of Broadband Growth

Carl Weinschenk

A study from The Pew Internet & American Life Project validates research from Cisco and The Broadband Forum that was released during the past few weeks. The studies approach the topic in slightly different ways, but the bottom line is about the same: The world of broadband is increasing at an accelerating clip. People are using broadband for more things, and the type of content in the pipeline is more bandwidth-intensive.


<strong>The increase isn't a spike-it's permanent growth</strong>.Pew says that 63 percent of the adult population in the U.S. now subscribes to broadband. That's 8 percent more than a year ago. Note that the gain was made during a year of dreadful economic conditions. Comparisons to other services show the depth of people's affinity for broadband: Nine percent of users cut back or canceled online services last year (presumably, the overall growth was driven by new broadband customers) compared to 22 percent who cut back on cable television. Even more telling was the fact that 2 percent more people-11 percent-cut their landline phone service than scaled back or cut broadband.


Comparing broadband to phone or cable television is an apples-to-oranges comparison. Landline phones essentially are used only for talking (with a bit of dial up Internet and faxing thrown in) and cable television is all about entertainment. Broadband, however, is a delivery mechanism, not an application or service. It gleefully supports any number of work- and entertainment-related activities.


Broadband growth is driven by taking market share away from the one-trick-ponies such as legacy phone and cable television. At the end of the day-once business plans, back offices and other elements are fully baked -- cable operators and traditional phone companies will essentially have no response to IPTV and VoIP except to get into those businesses themselves. This is happening -- and it further drives the use of broadband.


On a simpler level, broadband has become a utility. Even people who lose their jobs will cling to it until their financial situation is truly dire for a couple of reasons. Broadband simply is the best entertainment value for folks on a tight, but not emergency, budget. It also is the key tool in finding new employment.


The bottom line is that predictions about broadband growth are, if anything, conservative. There isn't anything that won't enlarge its role. The importance of the Pew study isn't to show how great demand is, though it does that. Rather, the value is in demonstrating how broad and multifaceted that demand is.

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Add Comment      Leave a comment on this blog post
Jun 24, 2009 9:43 AM Ed Carmona Ed Carmona  says:

There is very little that's 'great' about the 'Great Change' in progress in DC.

You have brought to light the fact that the current government is in a "grab-all-the-control-and-power-it-can" mode.  In this anti-business climate, should it continue, profit, as we know it will be replaced with government run and managed everything.  Our entire system of government and business is undergoing disruptive and harmful change - Change that will affect everything, including telecommunications.

Get ready for European style socialism where government drives business and dictates to all businesses how they will be managed.  Government will also determine which businesses succeed or fail.

Those telecom lawyers, who profited from litigation and the myriad government regulations, may soon find out that their jobs will also be government run, and government paid.  They may have to find lower-cost colleges to which they can send their kids.

Jun 24, 2009 10:22 AM Carl Weinschenk Carl Weinschenk  says: in response to Ed Carmona

Thanks for your comment, Ed.

I can't agree with you, however. What has happened so far is that the current administration is trying to correct the course set by the previous administration, which removed too many regulations and let things run rampant. Promoting business is one thing. Letting the fox run the hen house is another. I think that it's far too early to suggest that "European style socialism" is the goal. I think avoid a depression is the goal...


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