Pew: Home broadband subscriptions dip in U.S. as smartphone-only Americans reach 13% of population

Home broadband subscriptions have dipped in the U.S. over the past two years as more Americans are using smartphones as their primary channel for accessing the web, according to new data from the Pew Research Center.

Pew surveyed more than 2,000 U.S. adults and found that 67 percent of respondents had broadband access in their homes, down from 70 percent in 2013. Meanwhile, 13 percent of respondents were "smartphone-only," saying they used their handset to connect to the Internet and didn't have traditional broadband access at home.

That trend was especially notable among African Americans, those with relatively low incomes and those living in rural areas, Pew observed.

Interestingly, Pew said those with "advanced Internet access" -- which it defines as either a smartphone or traditional broadband subscription -- has remained relatively flat over the past few years. Eighty percent of adults reported having either a smartphone or home broadband subscription in 2015, compared with 78 percent in 2013.

Indeed, the high penetration rate of LTE networks in the U.S. coupled with faster phones with larger screens continues to boost mobile web traffic. But while we aren't necessarily seeing a digital divide, Pew observed that smartphone-only consumers face constraints others might not.

"Those who are 'smartphone-dependent' for access do encounter distinct challenges," the research organization noted. "Previous Pew Research Center findings show that they are more likely than other users to run up against data-cap limits that often accompany smartphone service plans. They also more frequently have to cancel or suspend service due to financial constraints. Additionally, a recent Pew Research Center survey found that those who use digital tools for job searches face challenges when it comes to key tasks such as filling out job applications and writing cover letters."

Pew also found that 15 percent of respondents have become cord cutters, abandoning paid cable or satellite services. Many say they cut the cord because of the increasing availability of televised content from the Internet and other sources.

For more:
- see this Pew Research Center report

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