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1/22/2009
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Even If Obama Builds More Broadband, U.S. May Not Use It

One in five Americans doesn't have broadband "for reasons that won't be addressed by price cuts or a fiber node in a neighborhood," according to a Pew Internet survey.

A survey of Americans' broadband aspirations by the Pew Internet & American Life Project has found that a sizable percentage of citizens without broadband aren't likely to get it, because many people simply don't want it and another group doesn't even have computers to access high-speed broadband.

"If You Build It, Will They Log On?" is the title of the report by John Horrigan, associate director for research at the market research organization. Horrigan answered the question in part by saying many older and lower-income Americans will be difficult to reach and educate on the value of broadband and how to use it. Horrigan's report was based on surveys of 4,254 people.

"When half of dial-up and nonusers cite reasons such as 'not interested' or 'nothing could get me to switch,' it seems clear that networked digital resources do not play enough of a role in their lives to justify a broadband connection," Horrigan said in the report.

The issue of providing widespread and more robust broadband is taking on new relevance in light of President Obama's push to bring broadband to rural and lower-income areas. Most Americans in rural areas have said they want broadband, but they are often frustrated because only dial-up service -- and sometimes not even dial-up -- is available to them. The story is different in many lower-income areas and among some older citizens -- they aren't particularly desirous of getting broadband access.

Horrigan said he believes many more Americans will welcome broadband than do now, but he expects the educational process will take longer than is generally expected.

"One in five Americans currently don't have broadband for reasons that won't be addressed by price cuts or a fiber node in a neighborhood," Horrigan said. "It will take time to get them up and running on broadband."

Obama has called for the spread of broadband as a building block to creating an advanced technologically supported economy that, among other things, would help small businesses in rural areas compete globally.

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