NTIA: Almost 99% Of Americans Have Access to Broadband

Says Narrow Disparities Persist
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Mobile Internet application use "exploded"  between July 2011 and October 2012, with double-digit percentage increases across all demos. Some form of broadband, fixed or wireless, is now available to almost 99% of the U.S. population.

That is according to a just-released National Telecommunications & Information Administration survey, "Exploring the Digital Nation: Embracing the Mobile Internet," based on October 2012 Census Bureau data.

Roughly nine out of ten Americans 25 and older (88%) say they use a mobile phone.

“Our report confirms the skyrocketing demand for devices that allow users to access Internet applications nearly anywhere,” said NTIA Chief Lawrence Strickling. “To support this growth, NTIA is working hard to help make more spectrum available to commercial carriers and expand broadband access and adoption.”

NTIA has been working on freeing up more government spectrum through reclamation and sharing--it oversees government spectrum use much as the FCC does the private sector.

But the broadband adoption picture was not all rosy, NTIA suggested, with "narrow but persistent" disparities in ownership and use. In short, the data showed mobile helping close the digital divide, but a remaining divide nonetheless.

"While broadband adoption has grown from 4 percent to 72 percent of households since 2000, 28% of households still lacked home broadband connections by October 2012," NTIA said. Over a quarter of that 28% said the reason they did not have broadband at home was that it was too expensive.

The Obama Administration has made freeing up spectrum for wireless broadband a national priority, and the FCC has emphasized that expense, as well as availability and speed, is an obstacle to adoption.

The Census Bureau collected data from over 53,000 households for the October 2012 data NTIA analyzed.

The top reason for the 28% of American homes not using broadband in those homes was lack of need or interest (48%), up from 39% a decade earlier, with expense the next largest segment at 29%. Looked at another way, said NTIA, 7% of households don't have broadband because of the cost. Lacking a computer or device was third at 11%.

NTIA looked a four "Internet-dependent activities," e-mail, downloading apps, web browsing and social networking. There was no separate category under Web browsing for accessing video.

Among the other key takeaways:

"[M]obile phone use increased 4 percentage points each among individuals with family incomes below $25,000 (73 percent to 77 percent) and people with disabilities (68 percent to 72 percent)."

"Over the five years from 2007 to 2012, home broadband use by persons 65 and older rose dramatically, increasing from 32 percent to 47 percent, a 15 percentage-point increase."

"Disparities in mobile phone adoption that remained between whites and minorities appeared to nearly vanish between 2011 and 2012. The report found that 88 percent of whites reported using mobile phones in 2012, compared with 87 percent of both African Americans and Hispanics."

"Libraries were important locations of Internet access across all income and educational brackets."