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35% of US Internet Still on Dialup

 5:24 pm on Feb 25, 2010 (gmt 0)


One-third of the country (or 93 million Americans) don't have high-speed Internet access at home, according to a new consumer survey released Tuesday (Feb. 23) by the Federal Communications Commission. The report, Broadband Adoption and Use in America, comes about a month before the Commission is due to release its national broadband plan to speed up broadband access to Americans.

Broadband adoption by African Americans, Hispanics, lower-income households, the disabled and senior citizens, trail the national average. About 59 percent of African Americans have broadband at home, 49 percent of Hispanics, 42 percent of the disabled and 35 percent of senior citizens.


65% of adults are broadband adopters. It then divides users who havenít got broadband into four groups. The Digitally Distant make up 10% of the general population; this is the group that simply doesnít want to be online. The Digital Hopefuls make up 8% of the population; theyíd like to be online but lack resources to do so; many donít have a computer and/or donít know how to use one, and cost of computer and broadband connection is also a big barrier.



 6:28 pm on Feb 25, 2010 (gmt 0)

I live in a rural area where broadband service only arrived last summer. We still don't get cell phone coverage or cable, but the local (inept) telephone company finally rolled out DSL without notifying anyone that it was available. We heard that a neighbor had it, called the phone company, and they hooked us up. Other neighbors have called to make sure we really have it after the phone company tells them it's not available in our area. They call back to give them the information that my phone number has DSL, and the phone company then says, "What do you know, we can get you DSL."

There's a whole lot of people out our way, though, who want nothing to do with the internet. It's usually older people who can't imagine it has anything to offer them. Then there's the people who even live off grid (go half a mile up the road from my house and people live with generators).


 6:45 pm on Feb 25, 2010 (gmt 0)

I have to say I am surprised by how high that number is.

I realize that broadband isn't everywhere but I wouldn't have put it at a 1/3

If someone would have asked me I would have guessed about 10%-15%


 6:57 pm on Feb 25, 2010 (gmt 0)

My question is what percentage of U.S. Internet users are on Internet connections that are faster than 500kbps as I don't really consider anything below that to be true broadband. I don't think a 256kpbs connection should be allowed to be sold as "high speed" or "broadband" Internet. Maybe instead it should be sold as "almost fast enough to not to make you die of old age waiting for stuff to download Internet."


 7:17 pm on Feb 25, 2010 (gmt 0)

Saying 65% have broadband is NOT the same as saying 35% are still using dialup. I would imagine that a high proportion of the non-broadband users don't use the Internet at all. I'm with Demaestro and think that dial-up users are closer to 10%, if that.


 7:29 pm on Feb 25, 2010 (gmt 0)

What's more, different people access the Internet in different ways. My parents had dialup at home until this year, but it's because they had access to broadband at work and didn't see the point of paying extra at home just to download their 3 daily e-mails a little faster. This is the flip side of the same coin as the persistence of IE6 in the corporate world, i.e. just because your company's IT policy is to use IE6 for eternity doesn't mean you're using it on your computer at home.

While affordability is cited as the biggest barrier, the population for which this is truly the case will have trouble affording a computer and any Internet access in the first place. Skills and relevance shouldn't be diminished either. Two households may have the same income level, but one which understands the benefits of the Internet and knows how to exploit it is going to make Internet access a higher priority than one that doesn't, at the expense of some other purchase the less skilled household considers more "essential."


 8:55 pm on Feb 25, 2010 (gmt 0)

Ask Al Gore to fix it.

No, but seriously; what happened over there? Its been quite a while since I've seen a dialup connection in western and northern Europe.

See here the reason Google is pushing perfomance.


 9:47 pm on Feb 25, 2010 (gmt 0)

I reside in a pretty affluent area within one of the two most expensive States to leave in.
My local Wachovia Bank is still on dialup,
But in remote part of Italy got DSL.


 10:12 pm on Feb 25, 2010 (gmt 0)

If you read the numbers again they say 10% don't want internet and 8% can't get internet, so that leaves 15% truly on dial-up. I would cut out a couple of percent of people that don't even know what they have and you are probably 10-12% that are still on dial-up to get on the internet.
And 75% of those people probably don't get on more than once a month or its public access (libraries or run-down internet cafes), so does it really affect most websites? I don't think it does. I will still optimize my site to run faster, but I am not going to go overboard focusing on making it dialup friendly.


 10:34 pm on Feb 25, 2010 (gmt 0)

Youíve got to remember during a recession people are cutting back on internet connections completely or in part. Plus with this recession people are probably saying what do I really need in case the hard times come. With TV cable rates going up and mobile phones competing for your dollar I wonder if itís worse than theyíre saying. Itís a whole new way of thinking now for many.


 10:49 pm on Feb 25, 2010 (gmt 0)

For quite awhile, the problem in our area was the extremely small number of carriers (like two or three) and the poor, surly service and "seemingly cooperative" pricing offered by them all.


 11:44 pm on Feb 25, 2010 (gmt 0)

We just had discussion on this topic over in the Usability and Accessibility forum as well



 12:03 am on Feb 26, 2010 (gmt 0)

I'm with Demaestro and think that dial-up users are closer to 10%, if that.

I agree. The 1/3 not on broadband doesn't necessarily mean they're struggling with dial-up.

Plus, so many people use high-speed web access at work, but not at home... (especially busy parents who often don't find the time to surf the web in the evenings/nights). Others don't have computers, but use smartphones and access the Internet via Edge or 3G.


 12:13 am on Feb 26, 2010 (gmt 0)

I'm just back from an overnight trip where dial-up was my only option for getting on the web.

Several of the sites I wanted to visit were more than just slow, they were utterly unusable.

I couldn't even get logged in in a couple of places, let alone complete the tasks that I wanted to. One of those tasks would have involved spending money, but I couldn't get far enough into the site to do that.

I would highly recommend to every one who calls himself/herself a webmaster or to anyone whoever commissions a website: do not sign off on the project until you have personally tested the site on dial-up, and understand what kind of experience your dial-up users would have when trying to use the core functions on the site.

Up to a point, slow is understandable, but the site should not be impossible!


 3:11 am on Feb 26, 2010 (gmt 0)

> My question is what percentage of U.S. Internet users are on
> Internet connections that are faster than 500kbps

That is a great question KenB. There is alot of 256k dsl services out there that are classified as broadband.

I think the lesson is to know your audience and know how 'heavy' of pages you can get away with in the long run.


 5:20 am on Feb 26, 2010 (gmt 0)

Being convicted to dialup and GPRS almost six months each year I am getting the impression that more and more sites simply become unusable on these basic speeds. Especially sites with many Ajax callback routines easily timeout because the delays in every call to the home server add up.

People in remote locations also often rely on the Internet for large purchases. I fairly often book hotels and flights via dialup and GPRS because there are no travel offices nearby where I can go. Just two days ago I spent 50 minutes on the Internet just for the checkout process of one ticket and one hotel. Total spent money more than $1000. If there had been more than the smallest alternative to book the ticket and hotel off-line I would have used that option.


 5:41 am on Feb 26, 2010 (gmt 0)

People are slow to change and when money is tight they don't want a bigger bill. That being said Dial-up is going the way of the TV antenna and 8-track quickly. There's a reason why AOL wants to ditch dial-up and other companies are seeing their dial-up earnings shrink.

New technology always wins in the long run, dial-up has had its run.


 7:31 am on Feb 26, 2010 (gmt 0)

One little town in my area (with about 400 people total, meaning about 150 houses) was a given a grant of over half a million dollars so they could rent a little building for 3 years, and staff it to show people how to use the internet. Of course, they'll now have broadband.

Probably 80% of those residents are between the ages of 75-100...our tax dollars at work.


More on topic, I would bet those on dialup (and who CHOOSE to be on dialup) are not going to be big online shoppers (the ones who don't trust the internet, don't want to put their credit card info online, etc)

...and if they do shop, are the ones who will place very small orders.


 2:12 pm on Feb 26, 2010 (gmt 0)

would bet those on dialup ... are not going to be big online shoppers

That would be a foolish bet, IMHO.

I often think that people who claim that dialup users spend less have created that very situation because their sites are just too frustrating to use on a slower connection.

People on slow connections WILL spend money online, as long as the process isn't made intolerable by needlessly sluggish site behaviour.

People in rural areas have fewer local shopping choices but they have just as many needs and wants as anyone else. Online shopping is an attractive option when the nearest mall is hours away, and if you provide a workable shopping experience for dialup users, you'll have a good chance to gain them as loyal repeat customers.

One easy place to make speed improvements: tweak your templates to reduce redundant white space from your source code!

JAB Creations

 4:33 pm on Feb 26, 2010 (gmt 0)

I've always made an effort to minimize broadband content on the dial-up user's option on my site. 377KB for broadband and 66KB for dial-up on the same page on my blog in example.

A nice on-topic Firefox extension: lori (Life-of-request info). I'll let a mode post a link to Mozilla's extensions (or edit this post) though at the bottom-right in Firefox's status bar is shows the total bandwidth of each page load. For example when I last loaded this page it was 18KB which is roughly four seconds on a solid 36K connection.

- John


 4:44 pm on Feb 26, 2010 (gmt 0)

After reading buck's post I wonder..... Has anyone spent the time to create a "light" site for dial-up users? You could do a test in JS and a redirect based on connection type.

I have spent a lot of time lately making mobile browser versions of sites, I am now thinking it could make sense to do the same with dial-up users.

Has anyone done anything like this?


 6:18 pm on Feb 26, 2010 (gmt 0)

but the local (inept) telephone company finally rolled out DSL without notifying anyone that it was available.

We have the opposite problem. The phone comany is always calling and saying it's available and trying to get us signed up. We thought that if we kept signing up and having our service immediately cancelled when they realized they couldn't actually provide it, they might finally actually get us wired up.

But after receiving and sending the equipment back a couple of times, that got old and after enough people did it, they finally took us out of the database.

I don't think a 256kpbs connection should be allowed to be sold as "high speed" or "broadband"

Especially when it's satellite internet. Because of the latency, you get killed on pages with lots of objects. God forbid it's an https page.

And of course, any real-time technology is off-limits (i.e. skype, streaming).

And finally, the Fair Access Policy limits people to roughly 200MB/day (Hughes) or 7.5GB/mo = 300MB/day for Wildblue).

So though sold and classified as broadband, it's a completely different animal than DSL.

I would imagine that a high proportion of the non-broadband users don't use the Internet at all.

I' sure that's true, but lately I'm thinking it's not as high a number as it used to be. We have neighbors who are lawyers, engineers, waiters and bussers, truck drivers and retired truck drivers (i.e. fairly wide professional spectrum) and neighbors from their 20s to those who are well into their 80s. They are all very active internet users. Until about two years ago they were all on dialup. In the past couple of years, about 10-15 out of 130 households have gotten satellite.

a while since I've seen a dialup connection in western and northern Europe

As I mentioned in the other thread, western and northern Europe generally have much much higher population densities than America. I've spent a fair bit of time living and climbing in the Alps, and you're rarely as far from "civilization" in the deepest Alps as you are in just a typical rural area in the States.

Our area has about 25 full-time households and would require perhaps 25-30 miles of new wire to be run to get from an existing DSL CO to us (now that I think of it, it could be 50 miles). Ditto for cable television. There's no way the phone company can pay off that investment.

And we're in densely populated California. If you are looking at places like Montanna, North Dakota, etc, the challenge is even greater.

People are slow to change and when money is tight they don't want a bigger bill.

We have two residences, 17 miles apart. DSL at one, not at the other (and the reason I said 25-50 miles of cable is because those 17 miles are off-limits for running new cable and that's the end of the line and would likely not have the capacity in the system).

We pay $25/mo for DSL
Dialup in our area costs $17-$19.95 per month. Many people have an extra phone line for their internet. So I don't think price is the issue for any of them. If DSL were available, every single neighbor I have talked to says they would sign up. I could sign up 25 households tomorrow. But the phone company has no interest.

was a given a grant

And by the way, the California carriers all refused to take the millions in grants from the Obama admin to wire rural areas. They said they had no interest in doing so and if they want to, they will, grant or no.

not going to be big online shoppers

Au contraire my friend. To add to buckworks comments, see the recent comments based on hard data in the other thread. Dialup users have very high conversion [webmasterworld.com].

As I mentioned there, we are 2 hours from the nearest Target, Best Buy, Wal-Mart, Home Depot, bookstore, etc etc. People here buy everything online if they can. The UPS driver knows every single person in our village by name and face, where you live and where you work. If you're out and about and he sees you, he'll flag you down and hand you your Amazon package. If he sees me in town and the weather's bad, he'll say "I have a package. Do you want it now, or do you want me to put it inside the storage area around the back of the house?"


 12:17 am on Feb 27, 2010 (gmt 0)

Most people that are tech savvy live in larger cities. But I think a lot of people would be surprised how low tech many rural areas still are in parts of the country. As mentioned already, they aren't going to spend millions on infrastructure to bring high speed to a handful of homes per square mile, and that's what you have (or worse) in many areas. I have relatives that are farmers, and they still had a "party line" into the 90's.

But I think saying everybody should bring their site down to the lowest common denominator, just because a small percentage of people still have a slow connection... isn't really the answer. I'm not going to penalize the other majority of people with over compression, small photos, and a boring site, just to make the minority more happy.


 2:07 am on Feb 27, 2010 (gmt 0)

Most people that are tech savvy live in larger cities.

So? More people live in cities, period.

Why are you so quick to assume that taking some care about the user experience on slower connections involves penalizing anyone else?


 2:58 am on Feb 27, 2010 (gmt 0)

I don't think DSL is the way to bring broadband or even quasi-broadband to rural parts of the U.S. As pointed out above the CO limitations and need to run so much copper is just too great. If broadband Internet is going to be brought to rural parts of the U.S. we need it needs to be made a national priority much like the rural electrification projects were early in the 20th century. As part of this the Federal government needs to invest in helping to develop the one technology that could actually bring broadband Internet to rural America and bring real competition to the not so rural parts of the U.S. That is the Federal government needs to help fund and promote investments in the development of a unified smart grid technology for our entire electric grid. With a smart grid, broadband over electric could bring broadband Internet into homes over the copper that is already connected to nearly every home in this country, which are existing power lines.

Not only would this bring real competition to the Internet market as there would be another viable broadband Internet option, but smart grid technology would allow us to use energy more efficiently by charging different rates for electricity based on demand. For instance, lower rates at night, encouraging people to put off certain chores like washing dishes or clothes until the night. With a smart grid and smart appliance, the grid could even communicate with the appliances to help determine the best time to run.

A fully realized smart grid could totally revolutionize how people in rural areas connect to the Internet and revolutionize how we use electricity.


 4:20 am on Feb 27, 2010 (gmt 0)

After reading buck's post I wonder..... Has anyone spent the time to create a "light" site for dial-up users? You could do a test in JS and a redirect based on connection type.

I did that with a retailer's site about eight years ago. I had a speed detection script and two different versions of the website. One was very light and one had heavier graphics, flash, etc. It still seemed like the high speed users far outnumbered dialup users.


 2:43 pm on Feb 27, 2010 (gmt 0)

But my statistics tell a different story. According to one of my popular site, only 1.3% people used dial-up to access the site.
And 1.3% is negligible. btw, Its a general information site, not a couture products website.


 11:09 pm on Feb 27, 2010 (gmt 0)

According to one of my popular site, only 1.3% people used dial-up to access the site.

How many people weren't counted by your stats program because they bailed before the pages loaded?

It's really difficult to keep pages below 40 or 50K without having them look like something from the 90's, though.


 4:49 pm on Mar 2, 2010 (gmt 0)

That's unbelievable.
Compared with countries like South Korea and Scandanavia.
Perhaps it is because of the low population of some of the larger US states that makes providing broadband expensive ?


 7:47 pm on Mar 5, 2010 (gmt 0)

Whoops, it's down to 32%, did you see that? Next week it's 31% baby!

This 31 message thread spans 2 pages: 31 ( [1] 2 > >
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