More People Are Passing on Home Broadband and Relying on Their Smartphones

Pew Research Center says percentage of phone-only internet users doubled since 2013

A family using smart devices in a living room for a story on broadband subscriptions and smartphones
46% of smartphone owners mostly use those devices to connect to the internet, according to Pew.
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Are adults in the U.S. looking to lower their monthly expenses, or are wireless carriers just offering better data plans? Whichever is the case, a new study from Pew Research Center revealed that more people are relying on their smartphones for internet access at home and spurning broadband connections.

A survey of 1,502 U.S. adults found that 27% of people do not subscribe to home broadband services and that the most common reason for not doing so is being able to do everything they need to do online via their smartphones, something 45% of respondents said.

Graph illustrating reasons non-broadband users do not subscribe to high-speed internet
Pew Research Center

Indeed, the percentage of smartphone-only internet users, which Pew defined as people who own smartphones but do not have high-speed connections at home, more than doubled from 8% in 2013 to 17% now.

Household income is clearly a factor in whether someone has broadband services at home. Ninety-two percent of respondents from households earning $75,000 or more annually subscribe, while that figure drops to 56% for those with an annual household income of less than $30,000.

However, the share of nonbroadband respondents who cited smartphones as the most important reason behind their choice nearly doubled, from 12% to 23%, since Pew last conducted similar research in 2015, while the cost of monthly subscriptions took the opposite path, with 33% calling it the most important reason in 2015 compared with 21% now.

Pew did not discover a burning desire for broadband at home, either, saying that six out of 10 nonsubscribers never had the service at home, and 80% are not interested in adding it in the future. Pew also analyzed its respondents by level of education, finding that 26% of those with a high school education or less are smartphone-only web users, versus 16% of those with some college and just 4% of college graduates.

Overall, since Pew began examining these trends in 2013, the percentage of smartphone owners who mostly use those devices to connect to the internet rose to 46% from 34%, while those who favored desktop or laptop computers or tablets fell to 30% from 53%. Respondents who said they use those devices equally jumped to 25% from 12%.

“These trends are part of a broader shift toward mobile technology that has changed the way people do everything from getting news to applying for jobs,” the research firm said.

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