back to article Most Americans without broadband don't want it

While the US government is considering spending $6bn to expand broadband access to under-served areas as part of a wider economic stimulus package, a new survey suggests most American high-speed internet holdouts simply aren't interested in broadband. The study released yesterday by the research firm Pew Internet & American …


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  1. Mark
    Thumb Up

    I completely understand

    What do you need broadband for?

    Movies? Oh, can't do that.

    Music. Oops. Ditto.

    Game demos? Ah, not really, you get a rootkit (otherwise known as SecurROM).

    A "Rich Internet Experience". Uh, that's why we use AdBlock Plus on Firefox.

    And if you dare to use the bandwidth, you're called a bandwidth hog and cut off.

    ISPs (especially in the US) are only happy if you're browsing the web for adverts and emailing.

    And that doesn't require broadband.

    So what the feck use is it?

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up


    These are the soft of people I don't want on my internet anyway.

  3. Allan Rutland

    Seen it in the UK also

    Know a few customers who won't change from dial-up. The majority see email as the one thing to use online, and as such won't be persuaded that waiting 45mins for there spam to download can be done in no time should they upgrade. But the ones I've seen don't see a point in it since they hate browsing the web. Many using the excuse as mentioned in story because its "too difficult".

    Not sure on the US pricing, but UK wise the big push to force people to switch is to continue to hike the cost of dial-up so broadbands cheaper. But doubt they would get away with that trick in the US.

    My big grief with these folks is AV products and standard patching. The updates on them are usually 5-10 years out of date, and when they do finally switch they become a malware magnet instantly.

  4. Sandmich
    Unhappy's a waste of time (7 per cent)

    Yeah, well, umm... I don't have a comeback.

  5. Dick

    What is broadband?

    I was starting to believe this report but they lost me when I saw their claim that 76% of US rural residents have access to broadband. The only way I can see that being true is if they are calling 100 kpbs (if you are lucky), with horrible latency, expensive, satellite service as broadband.

  6. Richard Read
    Black Helicopters

    Missing the point

    Surely the point of the package is to pump public money into the ISPs to keep them afloat and employing people (and paying campaign contributions of course)?

    Any supposed customer benefits are just a pretext which is why noone who matters really cares if they materialise. They know that the public is too lazy and easily distracted to remember what the deal was supposed to do for them anyway.

  7. Steen Hive

    I would be surprised

    If most people actually really "wanted" several hundred TV channels of shit either. It's a modern disease, just live with it.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    @ Mark

    The internet is becoming an increasingly miserable experience for us poor saps who are stuck with dial-up, and that's *with* adblock plus, not downloading movies or games or very much music at all, not even bothering with gaming online.

    I would have said I'm part of the 14% who just can't get BB at all, but then remembered that there are two satellite broadband providers which I could choose from.

    One is overpriced with crappy customer service, lowball bandwidth restrictions, huge latency and lousy performance most of the time. The other is expensive, the customer service sucks, the bandwidth restrictions are tight, ping times are awful and most people say you'd be better off sticking with dialup.

    Or there's a line of sight option which probably won't work during the 8 or 9 months of the year that there are leaves on the trees. We're going to look into that one, but I'm not at all optimistic.

    Yeah, that's the choice the free market offers me. Aren't I just blessed?

    The funny thing is, if we could get broadband that was worth the effort, we could drop our Verizon landline and the dialup account, go mobile-only and *save* money every month. Everyone's happy (except Verizon, who don't deserve happiness anyway, the shits).

  9. Some Guy
    Paris Hilton


    This article suggests Americans are ignorant and apathetic. Well, I don't know about that and I don't really care.

  10. Roger Williams

    It's broadband, Jim, but not as we know it

    Meanwhile, the rest of us living here (those who ostensibly have "broadband") would like some bandwidth actually recognisable as broadband by the rest of the civilised world, say South Korea.

  11. Todd Franklin
    Thumb Down

    There IS rural demand

    I own a computer service in small town in southern Missouri USA. My experience is that the rural people who care about broadband are chomping the bit to get it. I think what the survey fails to address is that many people don't understand what they're not getting.

    When we first opened our shop in this town, we had no broadband available except Satellite (terrible direcway/hughes service to boot). Our local phone company wasn't in a big hurry to roll DSL out either, siting that there was no demand; They had a "list" that you could "sign up for" that no one ever saw. The problem was that the people didn't know what they were missing. It was the "if you build it, they will come" scenario. Once they FINALLY rolled out DSL, and the locals realized what they were missing, they started switching over. Once people switch to broadband, they almost never go back. It also helped that the local dial-up providers' services started to go in the toilet as well with terrible (even for dial-up) connection speeds, hangups, local number changes and what have you.

    Most of my rural customers that can't get broadband KNOW what they're missing because they see my speeds here, or have friends in town that have it, and therefore they want it too. There's always going to be people that don't care about internet. I'd say that those people probably don't even have dial-up anyway. And since population density in rural areas is obviously lower, there's less potential payoff to the internet provider in the short term to recover equipment costs etc, so there's less incentive to roll broadband out. But the demand is there.

  12. Chad H.


    Is this really news... Lets think about it..

    Product widely available... Fairly low prices now... Been on the market for years...

    Yep, I think most folks who dont have it probably don't.

  13. Anonymous Coward

    Additional numbers

    The article fails to mention some other important percentages:

    12% -- took a break to yell at kids on lawn

    9% -- thought pollster was in the room and offered him/her some hard candy

    23% -- afraid Web-surfing time would interrupt Matlock marathon

    .0001% -- was John McCain

  14. null
    Thumb Down

    Found Money

    And as everybody knows, this money's just going to fall from the sky so that ISP's can sell their service in areas that are not profitable to people who don't want it. Makes perfect sense to me... Government efficiency at its finest...

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    So if...

    ...most of your neightbours say they don't want sewage treatment in their 'hood, you will be forced to shit in a can like everybody else.



    Pay through the nose to get it installed just for yourself. So, the next epidemic of black plague shall ensure survival of the fittest.

    It is becoming a public commodity, like water, eletricity, telephone. They are there, whether you like it or not. If you don´t, just refuse to install it in your home. Period.

    I lived on dial-up and hated every minute and phone bill of it. Good riddance I say.

  16. Jerry

    Obama's first repayment for campaign contributions

    Working in the industry providing broadband connectivity, and specifically fiber connectivity, it is pretty obvious what this is all about.

    Movies and Money

    Broadband internet is all about piping huge volumes of data (movies) to individual customers and reaping huge amounts of money in return.

    Broadband fiber networks have return on investment period of decades - if ever. They are not attractive to investors. What is attractive is if you can get the Government to pay for the infrastructure and then you use that to sell content and make a huge buck.

    The story that is published is that America needs broadband to become competitive, become a world leader, <insert irrelevant made-up benefit here>. Mr Obama looks good for being progressive, people get broadband, and the already extremely wealthy owners of media companies get even more wealthy. A win all round - except for the poor taxpayers who fund the whole system so they can have the privilege to consume even more.

    In fact the internet has been a godsend for media companies. They would never ever have got a Government subsidy for their new fiber cable networks. But take basically the same technology, tart it up, call it 'Broadband Internet,' slap a progressive sticker on it and start the trucks hauling all that money to the bank 24x7.

    And all this for just a few millions of investment in Obama's campaign.

  17. Martin Edwards

    What about the updates?

    Something I've never seen cited as a reason for needing broadband is software updates. To keep it healthy, the average user's computer needs to be downloading virus definitions regularly, Microsoft updates monthly (or the equivalent from Apple), patches for Adobe Reader, Flash, iTunes, and any alternative web browser they're using, and so on. And this just doesn't happen over dialup, at least not before the user finishes whatever it is they're doing and disconnects it or logs off. I mean say you bring home a new machine and install Office 2007 -- that's, what, 300MB of updates lined up straightaway!

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down


    While I agree with the remark that the internet is a waste of time, I have to wonder who they were asking. I live several miles outside of a very small town and have 7Mbps DSL for about $29 a month, with 1.5Mbps available for as little as $14-$19, which is cheaper than some dial up providers. Despite the rural locale I could also get cable, satellite or WiMAX out here, which are a bit slower and cost more but is available farther out. This just seems to be a case of a politician desperately trying (and failing) to look like he's actually accomplishing something.

  19. Steve Brooks

    demand register?

    "Our local phone company wasn't in a big hurry to roll DSL out either, siting that there was no demand; They had a "list" that you could "sign up for" that no one ever saw."

    Ah yes for the local demand register for the broadband on a web page that takes 10 minutes to load for dial-up and that people without internet can't even access - so no response to a register that you can't actually get to = no demand.

  20. Mark

    re: demand register

    In a dark room without stairs in a locked cupboard in a room with a sign on the door saying "beware of the leopard"...

    (I'm a Vogon...)

  21. Mark

    A problem for the updates

    A problem with using the internet to get your updates is that you can get infected while getting the updates.

    Patch Tuesday gives you 6 days a week potentially, even if it's fixed on discovery.

    Add to that the reinstall leaves you waiting for SP3 to download (taking 5 minutes on broadband) whilst you, on SP0, get pwned in 30 seconds...

    So you're better off with no broadband and only a very occasional use of dial-up. If any.

  22. Apocalypse Later
    Thumb Down


    I am am nine kilometres from the local exchange, which is three more than the official limit for broadband to work, though one of our neighbours gets a kind of service at seven and a half kilometres. There is also apparently a stretch of aluminium cabling towards the end of this line, that was installed just after WW2, which the engineer says is practically a filter for broadband. So I pay twice as much as everyone else for a slower service by satellite, and until recently still had to have a landline dialup account as well, for the uplink (in fact still have one, as a backup).

    Now I am using the laughable titled "mobile broadband" for the uplink. Again because of rural distance and possibly lack of the latest gubbins on the closest mast, the "broadband" speed is no greater than that of a 56K modem. And yes, when the trees came into leaf I had to move the mobile broadband dongle up into the top of the house to get a signal through the intervening woodland, which meant moving the computer and satellite cable up there too, and installing a wireless network so that we could continue to use the internet in normal parts of the house.

    But for all of that, "mobile broadband" is a great boon. I don't have to dial up every time I want internet access, and hang up after, I don't need a separate phone line for voice anymore (though I am afraid to let it go as it was so hard to get). We don't have to shout from room to room to negotiate whether any of us is online, wants to go online, is OK with going offline, and so on. I just wish I didn't have to trudge up to the attic a couple times a day to reboot the "satellite server" when the mobile dongle throws a moody (yes, I can manage the box remotely with VNC, but the dongle won't reset and Windows hangs on restart).

    The satellite provider is a German company with a UK subsidiary. The Germans won't talk to me or let me use their website to access my account. The UK subsidiary's website has been "under construction" for more than a year. The only thing they seem able to do is take money from my credit card. Still, I pay 19% VAT, the German rate, and every time I access I am helpfully redirected to, because all my traffic goes through German servers. Some UK sites won't allow me access at all because they only serve the UK, and I am apparently German.

    I am told that conventional broadband would be within reach if BT brought fibre out to the "street" cabinet a couple of miles from here, but that they will probably do this for every city cabinet before they get to the ones in the countryside. In the meantime, I am fortunate to be technically able, or I would probably have to give up on the web. Normal people couldn't be expected to cope with my lashup.

  23. Davey Bee

    Low usage people

    I actually visit people's homes / workplaces as part of my business (doing repairs, giving advice, etc etc) and I see all sorts of people. In fact I suspect that I see a wider range of PC users than most people here.

    I have about a dozen - mainly elderly - customers who are quite happy with PAYG, and with some justification: they only use their PCs for reading and sending emails every few days, and this is far cheaper for them than paying a monthly fee. In fact I've had a couple of customers who have gone back to dialup as a money-saving measure.

    It's all very tempting for pros like us to think that everyone *should* be interested in the internet - but some people aren't, and they shouldn't be ridiculed because of it.

    P.S. But Martin Edwards' point is a good one, and in fact these dialup customers of mine never have things up to date (but then again, for a few emails here and there....)

  24. Jeremy

    Google Earth.

    That's all you need to win the apathetic people over. Really.

    I've convinced many stalwarts who simply wouldn't consider getting broadband internet to take the plunge simply by showing them their own house on Google Earth (explaining that it would be pants on dial-up) and then leaving them to play with it for twenty minutes or so. It's amazing how many of them are immediately sold.

  25. Toastan Buttar

    Re: What about the updates ?

    "Microsoft updates monthly (or the equivalent from Apple)"

    Or in Canonical's case, every freakin' second day.

  26. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I didn't think broadband was anything special

    until I got it. Now, I'd shoot anybody who tried to force me back on to dial-up.

    Fact is, people are apathetic because they don't know what they're missing.

  27. James
    IT Angle


    Its a waste of time (I'm supposed to be revising)

    Its hard (What is antivirus anyway?)

    This website seems to think I need to scan my computer urgently, wow they are going to do it for free! Thank god there are still nice peop...............

  28. Charles Manning

    Keep em on dial up

    On dial up you can't really be botted.

    Of course it is all political: trying to reconstruct a perception that America that will be able to hold its head high in the technical future. There must be some embarrassment on the part of the government that US cell phone coverage is worse than Rwanda. Places that the US would like to look down on have fatter broadband pipes.

    It just isn't a good look if you're the Alpha consumers of the world.

  29. skeptical i

    Not all who surf need BB.

    There are broadband options here (cable, wireless/ line- of- sight, and probably others) but they all charge more than I care to pay for what I do online (mostly email and trawling news sites), so I politely toss their glossy adverts into the recycle bin. However, if I was an online gaming addict, had an in-home graphics or other business that required me to shove gargantublocks of data to/ from customers, and/or gave a flying rat's about downloading movies, music, pr0n, &c., then perhaps it would be worth the cost and hassle. (To make an analogy, if all I'm doing is schlepping groceries, why pay for a Lexus when my Civic will do the same job?)

  30. Anonymous Coward


    Even here in Europe we have an awful lot of people on dial up. After various european directives to ensure the option of broadband have been watered down, as the ISPs claim its not profitable, people i know have been waiting for years for broadband.

    The researchers have failed to note the negative effect of CONTINUED dial up. The experience has got slower, you cannot get most modern content (e.g. digital pictures sent by family members, video, most flash content). In fact it becomes difficult as you are constantly being timed out and it takes 10 minutes to go back to a page if you clicked in error. If i didn't have broadband yet i would wonder at its benefits.

  31. Phil

    Neither ignorant nor apathetic

    In pretty much all big Canadian cities, dial-up is free. North Americans don't pay per minute for local calls and there are lots of local numbers for dial-up. Some of them serve you with an ad-based frame, some don't.

    I thinks it's funny that some people seem to get all upset that not everybody wants the internet... Some Guy: "Americans are ignorant and apathetic. Well, I don't know about that and I don't really care."

    I don't want an arabic/russian dictionary at the moment but I'm neither ignorant nor apathetic.

  32. Sarah Bee (Written by Reg staff)

    Re: Neither ignorant nor apathetic

    >ignorant and apathetic. Well, I don't know about that and I don't really care.

    Tee hee!

  33. Norfolk Enchants Paris


    Google Earth?

    These are Americans you're talking about. The one's that don't want Broadband are the ones that have never heard of any country that the US has never invaded, and would have difficulty with the concept of a spherical planet.

  34. George-Cristian Birzan
    Thumb Down


    > For non-internet users, the majority (33 per cent) of respondents said

    Cough. 33% is not actually a majority. :-)

  35. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward



    This article suggests Americans are ignorant and apathetic. Well, I don't know about that and I don't really care.


    That gets my vote for comment of the year so far - thanks for that :)

  36. Anthony Mark

    @Sarah Bee

    It's not very lady-like to laugh at people less intellectually able than yourself!

  37. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Here is Switzerland they have almost completely eliminated dial up, they do have dial up broadband (a rather interesting idea) which has a price cap of the cheapest always on broadband contract and is only a few $c more per minute than traditional dial up. Clearly only works assuming infrastructure supports this but it does give the benefits of both worlds..

  38. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Rural boradband is cheaper than "urban broadband"

    I'm paying $50/month for verizons FiOS (2Mbps up, 5Mbps down). My mother-in-law, who lives over 5 miles from the CO in a rural area, pays $25 for DSL - 1Mbps up, 3Mbps down.

    I'd take her rural broadband over my FiOS any day, and save the $25. Verizon does offer DSL service, but only in neighbourhoods that don't have FiOS.

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