More Than Half of Americans Still Using Dial-Up Internet Connections

If you’re a person who recalls not-so-fondly the days of dial-up Internet connections—when you’d start a download or begin checking your mail and then go off to do something else while the process took place—count yourself lucky.

It turns out that as few as 28 percent of American households today have access to broadband Internet. That’s according to reporter Richard Hoffman in a Nov. 20, 2006 Information Week article, citing data from Government Accountability Office.

Hoffman notes that The Pew Internet & American Life Project puts the number of American adults using broadband at 42 percent. Still, that means more than half of our fellow country-people are using dial-up connections, or maybe no connection at all.

What a terrifying thought.

Among those who still don’t have access to broadband are my parents, who live in northern Vermont. While they’re not heavy Internet users, the slow speeds are frustrating to me because I can’t send them more than a few down-sampled photos at a time, and certainly not large files like PDFs.

Technologies aimed at closing the gap between broadband haves and have-nots include satellite, cellular, and WiMAX. None of them, though, are anywhere near ready for large-scale deployment.

The biggest problem, as I see it, is that service providers simply have no reason to stretch their broadband offers into rural areas if the cost of infrastructure needed to do so is higher than the profits those companies could make from subscription fees.

That means, I guess, that bringing broadband to the sticks, as Hoffman puts it, probably will require government subsidization. Which raises the question: is broadband important enough to spend taxpayer dollars bringing it to rural areas?

I’m not sure I know the answer to that, but I will say this: it sure would be nice if I could send more photos to my folks.

What do you think the solution is?


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