If the Federal Communications Commission requires more firepower for its proposed National Broadband Plan, it can point to the fact that broadband adoption slowed to a crawl in 2010.
Some 66 percent of American adults now use a high-speed Internet connection at home, up from 63 percent in 2009, according to the latest results from the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project.
Pew, which surveyed 2,252 English-speaking citizens by phone in April and May, said this growth was “dramatically” slower than it has been in the past.
While broadband growth is dragging overall, adoption is on the rise among African-Americans, well above the national average, the researcher also found.
Broadband adoption by African-Americans is at 56 percent, up from 46 percent for the same period through 2009.
Calculating the percentages, that works out to a 22 percent year-over-year growth rate, cutting the broadband adoption gap between African-Americans and Caucasians in half.
Still, the relative drop of broadband adoption growth could be used in favor of the FCC’s National Broadband Plan, which aims to bring affordable, high-speed Internet access to more rural counties in the United States.
While homes in rural areas certainly need more broadband, the FCC is pushing for broadband in rural hospitals and medical clinics whose Internet connections are severely slow.
Then again, a statistic from the Pew report shows that 53 percent of Americans do not believe the spread of affordable broadband should be a major government priority.
Pew found that 21 percent of those surveyed said they do not use the Internet at all. Non-Internet users are less likely than current users to say the government should prioritize broadband connections, which makes sense.
If people aren’t using the Internet now, some 15 years after it became popular, they likely don’t consider it an important tool. And if they don’t find it useful, the logic follows, why would they want the government to spend money and resources boosting it?
That’s a perception that FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski must fight as he tries to push his broadband plan through. The FCC’s own study from July found that roughly 14 million to 24 million American citizens still lack access to broadband.
Broadband policies overall are having a rough summer.
The FCC last week broke off talks with Internet companies such as Google and Amazon and broadband carriers such as Verizon and AT&T after the conversations ceased being productive.
The stoppage was also likely due to concerns about the network neutrality proposal from Google and Verizon, which calls for tiered traffic across wireline networks but not regulation for wireless networks.
This plan has divided Web companies such as Facebook, which don’t like the discrimination between wireline and wireless networks, and carriers such as AT&T, which like the deal.