The ring of an Internet dial-up connection reminds many people of their favorite ’90s-era web portal, but millions of Americans still connect by phone today, according to recently released study by the Pew Research Center’s Internet and American Life project.
About 3% of Americans use the telephone network to get online at home, the survey found, while about 70% of Americans now have broadband access. “We have found in the past that many of these users point to cost or other economic factors as the main reason why they don’t have broadband at home,” Aaron Smith, an author of the report, told Fast Company in an email.
Not having Internet access, argue policy experts, can create disadvantages in education, employment, access to health care and other areas.
What the Pew study points out is that having access to the Internet can mean different things, not of all of them equally beneficial. More common than using a dial-up connection as the main source of Internet at home, for instance, is using a smartphone. Among Hispanic people who don’t have broadband access, for instance, 22% have smartphones. The same is true for about 10% of the general broadband-less population.
While smartphones are in many ways an improvement over dial-up connections, Smith notes that the main disadvantages cited by people without Internet access are associated with opportunities and career improvement. Updating a resume, filing taxes, or viewing educational content is more difficult on a smartphone operating over a cell phone network than on a broadband-connected home computer.
“We do hope that these findings can serve as a corrective to the common perception that ‘everyone’ is online, or that all home users are accessing the Internet through a traditional broadband connection,” he says. “Clearly a significant portion of the public is not online at all, and even within the at-home user population, there is quite a bit of variation–from traditional broadband users, to the small but persistent group of dial-in users, to people who are using their smartphone as their main source of ‘home’ access.”
[The wire: Nils Z via Shutterstock]