Farmers in rural area on laptop

The use of home broadband and smartphones continues to track upward in the United States, but there are disparities among internet and smartphone users in urban, rural and suburban areas, according to Pew Research Center. Pew researchers found that 95% of adults use the internet, 90% have a smartphone, and 80% subscribe to high-speed home internet.

The data came from Pew’s National Public Opinion Reference Survey (NPORS), which found that 73% of adults living in rural areas subscribe to home broadband, which is a bit less than those in urban areas (77%), but much less than the 86% of broadband subscribers in suburban areas.

The NPORS found that about a third (32%) of users in rural settings say they use the internet almost constantly. This compares to 43% of suburbanite internet users and 48% of urban users.

The survey found that adults in rural areas trailed slightly in smartphone ownership: 87% of adults in rural areas have a smartphone, compared with 91% of urbanites and 93% of suburbanites.

One category in which rural areas stood out in the study’s results is in measuring those who are “smartphone dependent.” Pew defines this as adults who “have a smartphone, but do not subscribe to home broadband.” Perhaps due to a historic scarcity of broadband in rural areas, 18% of rural respondents describe themselves as smartphone-dependent, compared with 11% of suburbanites and 17% of urbanites.

The NPORS was conducted by Ipsos and was in the field May 19 to September 5, 2023. The method of gathering responses recently switched from telephone to the Web and physical mail.

Cost is naturally a factor in broadband penetration. Last July, Broadband Genie said that the United States is thirty-second in affordability, having an average monthly cost of $72.20. That is a bit less than 1.8% of the average monthly salary of $4,083.26.

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One thought on “Report: Rural Users More Likely to Rely on Mobile Internet, Spend Less Time Online

  1. The article states “Perhaps due to a historic scarcity of broadband in rural areas, 18% of rural respondents describe themselves as smartphone-dependent, compared with 11% of suburbanites and 17% of urbanites.”

    I suspect that poverty rates play into this as well. According to a different Pew report, poverty rates in urban and rural areas are roughly similar, 17% and 18% respectively. In suburban areas, it’s 14%. I would assume that lower-income households are more likely to rely on mobile broadband than fixed home connections.

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