It’s hard to imagine that just 10 years ago, there were more dial-up connections than broadband, but that’s how it was. Today, broadband is in more homes than dial-up ever reached, and smartphones have made it possible to stay in touch with friends and watch cat videos without needing a broadband connection. But a sizable portion of the population—20%— still doesn’t have access to either. And in an economy that’s relying more and more on digital information to function, a lack of Internet access can mean the difference between survival and poverty.
A report released Monday morning by the Pew Internet & American Life Project found that broadband has now reached its highest U.S. penetration point to date, with 70% of U.S. households adopting broadband. By comparison, at its peak, dial-up was in 41% of households.
That, of course, means three out of 10 people still don’t have a broadband connection at home. The usual demographics apply: age, education, and income, but interestingly, education is the largest predictor of whether or not a person will have broadband access at home. Only 37% of people without a high school diploma are likely to have a home broadband connection, compared to 57% of high school grads, 78% of those with some college, and 89% of those who completed college.
Income also played a key role in whether a person had a broadband connection, with only 54% of those making less than $30K a year likely to have broadband, compared to 88% of those in households making $75K a year or higher.
Only 3% of households have dial-up, so it’s not a matter of 30% of people preferring dial-up to broadband. Cost was the most commonly cited reason for not having a home broadband connection. In a previous Pew study of those with a dial-up connection, fully 35% said they would switch to broadband when the price came down, while 17% said they simply lived in an area where it wasn’t available.
The current study also found that while 56% of American adults now own smartphones, 10% of Americans have a smartphone but no broadband connection at home. Fully 20% of American adults have neither a broadband connection or a smartphone.
This comes as more companies are making philanthro-capitalist moves to get more of the world’s population online. Fully two-thirds of the world has no Internet access. Last week, Facebook was one of seven Internet companies to launched Internet.org, an initiative to bring Internet access to the world’s population by driving down costs and utilizing data more efficiently.
Earlier this year, Google launched Project Loon, which intends to bring Internet access to developing countries via solar-powered balloons.
In the U.S., those without a home broadband connection are at a distinct disadvantage when it comes to things like applying for jobs or accessing educational content or even health information.
“We’ve consistently found that age, education, and household income are among the strongest factors associated with home broadband adoption,” said Kathryn Zickuhr, Research Associate for the Pew Research Center’s Internet Project and lead author of the report. “Many dial-up users cite cost and access as the main reasons they don’t have broadband.”
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