Pew Internet’s “Home Broadband” on non-adopters

This week, the Pew Internet Project released its indispensable annual survey, Home Broadband, 2010 edition. Both pdf and online versions are available here. The big headline for me is in the latest data about a) the attitude of non-Internet users to broadband as a policy priority, and b) the reasons non-adopters don’t adopt.

Pew Internet broadband adoption

Surprise! High-speed access is a low priority for non-onliners!

This chart from the report (p.19) shows that, among non-users of the Internet, an astonishing two-thirds (66%) believe that expanding “affordable high-speed Internet access” is either not too important as a priority or should not be a priority at all, while another 15% of this group are in the DK category.

On the Pew site, author Aaron Smith makes this observation:

Contrary to what some might suspect, non-internet users are less likely than current users to say the government should place a high priority on the spread of high-speed connections.

I’m puzzled as to why Smith would see this as counter-intuitive – except maybe in the sense that progressives assume anyone not having broadband must be waiting impatiently to get it. This paradox is part of a larger problem for marketers in the digital era: i.e. most people don’t want what they’ve never experienced and don’t understand. Overcoming this black box problem takes the marketing genius of a Steve Jobs. Who knew we all needed an iPod? (apart from clues like it looked beautiful, felt silky, had only one button, was part of a huge musical ecosystem, etc.).

Relevance a bigger issue than affordability

The Pew report also revisits the vexing question as to why non-adopters of broadband are non-adopters. Smith says the following (Report, p.10):

As we have found in previous surveys, roughly half (48%) of non-internet users cite issues of relevance when asked why they do not go online. One in five (21%) point to issues related to price while 18% cite usability issues and 6% point to access or availability as the main reason they do not go online.

These numbers indicate the issue of perceived relevance is even bigger than price, despite the carping people like me have done in recent months about the affordability – i.e. un-affordability – of broadband in Canada. Neither the US nor Canada can boast of a “free” and “open” Internet until they start devising social and public ed programs to raise awareness among the 30% of adults who are not on broadband. These folks have got to be disabused of the notion that the Net’s not for them, because their ill-founded beliefs – or genuine pleas for help in going online – are making them second-class citizens.