A Decade of Statistics

Now that we’ve started a new decade, I thought it would be interesting to look back to see what progress has been made with broadband in the last ten years. My first realization in doing so was that I’ve been writing this blog about broadband for most of that decade, having started writing in early 2013, so I’ve tracked many of the changes in the industry.

I first looked at statistics on broadband subscribers and on the various ways that we use the Internet. The following statistics are for US adults:

  • 90% of Americans now say they use the Internet, up from 78% at the beginning of the last decade. Nearly 100% of Millennials say they use the Internet.
  • 85% of homes pay for a broadband connection at home. Surprising to me was that almost 80% of homes purchased Internet access in 2010. We now know there are two primary reasons why homes don’t buy broadband – price, and lack of broadband access in rural areas.
  • We are spending more time online. The average US adult now spends 3.7 hours per day online, up from 2.2 hours at the start of the decade.
  • 81% of Americans now use a smartphone, up from 35% at the start of the decade. 93% of Millennials own a smartphone. 96% of all adults own a cellphone.
  • 72% of Americans use social media, up from 43% at the start of the last decade. The number of people who say they get their news from social media (20%) now surpasses those that get news from print media (including online newspapers).
  • The use of tablets exploded in the past decade, growing from 3% of adults to 52% in 2019.
  • The use of desktops and laptops has declined slightly from 78% to 74%.

Most ISPs still care about telephone and cable TV service.

  • The total number of telephone line subscriptions was 150 million in 2010 and was down to 112 million in 2019. This number includes business telephone lines.
  • 39% of US homes still had a landline connection in 2019, down from 68% in 2010. A decade earlier this was at 96%.
  • The US had 104.6 million cable households in 2010 (59.8 million by cable, 6.9 million by telco and 33.9 million by satellite). By the end of the third quarter of 2019, paid CATV subscriptions dropped to 83.3 million (48 million by cable, 8.9 million by telcos, and 26.3 million by satellite). Cable subscribers at telcos surged at the start of the decade, but all categories are now dropping.
  • 50% of homes with Internet access now watch streaming video daily, up from 16% in 2010.

There are other statistics that should be of interest to ISPs:

  • The number of people that move has cut in half over the last 35 years. By 2019 only 1.5% of Americans moved to a different state. 5.9% of people moved but stayed in the same county. Many of my clients have reported lower churn over time due to households moving.
  • Rural populations continue to decline slowly. The last decade saw average declines in rural population of about 0.3% per year. That has slowed by the end of the decade, but overall, rural populations are still slightly declining.
  • Rural populations are aging. A report by the Census bureau in 2019 says that more than 22.9% of Americans over 65 live in rural America. There are 13 states where the percent of rural elderly exceeds 40% (VT, ME, MS, WV, AR, MT, SD, ND, AL, KY, NH, IA). This foretells significant declines in rural populations over the next several decades.
  • In 2019 Millennials surpassed Gen Xers as the largest generation in the workforce. In 2019 the workforce consisted of 57 million Millennials, 53 million Gen Xers, and 38 million baby boomers.
  • The last decade was the first decade in 160 years to see an increase in the size of the average household. The average household grew from 2.58 people in 2010 to 2.63 people in 2019. The number has been declining steadily since 1790 when a household averaged 5.79 people.

Nationwide statistics are always interesting, but few of my clients see the same numbers locally. One of the important pieces of the puzzle when looking for a broadband solution is understanding how your community fits into these national trends. As an example, one of the most disparate statistics we see when doing surveys is the penetration rate of traditional TV. We still find communities where it’s above 80% and others where it’s lower than the national average.

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