Rural Americans continue to lag the rest of the U.S. in the adoption of broadband connections at home, but the gap is narrowing, according to a new report from the Pew Internet & American Life Project.
Broadband usage is an important indicator of online retail spending because broadband users shop online more than dial-up users.
At year-end 2005, 24% of rural Americans had high-speed Internet connections at home, compared with 39% of adult Americans living elsewhere, Pew found. In 2003, 9% of rural Americans had broadband at home, less than half the 22% rate in urban and suburban America.
For overall Internet use by whatever connection from whatever location, adult rural Americans lagged the rest of the country by 8 percentage points (62% to 70% margin), Pew said. That is about half the gap that existed at year-end 2003.
The unavailability of home broadband service in rural areas is partially responsible for the gap in broadband use between rural and suburban and urban areas, according to Pew. Among all dial-up users, 58% said broadband was available, 15% said it was not, and 26% didn’t know. In comparison, 38% of rural dial-up users said broadband service was available, 27% said it was not, and 35% didn’t know.
Demographics also play a role in the slow adoption of broadband in rural areas. Rural Americans are, on average, older, less educated and have lower incomes than people living in other parts of the U.S., all factors associated with lower levels of online use, Pew said.