Are We at "Peak" Internet Access Adoption? In the U.S. Market, That Might be True for Fixed Accounts

“You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink.” The principle, that making something available and having it used, applies to internet access. Not every household buys a fixed line internet access connection.

Some 83 percent of U.S. residents buy (or use) fixed network internet access service at home, according to Leichtman Research Group.

Consistent with the profile of those not online at home, the most common reason for not getting an Internet service at home is a lack of need (50 percent of non-buyers). Cost is said to be the barrier for 17 percent of non-buyers. Some eight percent say they “cannot” buy service.

About 60 percent of non-buyers say they do not own a personal computer or notebook.

At least eight percent of non-buyers say they use smartphones for access. Other studies suggest that perhaps 13 percent of U.S. residents report they use their smartphones exclusively for internet access. Some 65 percent of the smartphone-only respondents say the smartphone lets them do all they need to online, according to a Pew Internet and American Life Project survey.

The availability of other access options outside the home also is a reason some rely on smartphone-only access. Some 34 percent of smartphone-only users say they go online at a public library. Others (about 40 percent of smartphone-only users) access the internet using facilities at a high school, college or community college.

The point is that there is a difference between supply of access services and demand for those services. Virtually everyone would agree that access should be made available to everyone. But that is a different matter from actual purchase. A significant number of households do not want to buy.

One might even predict that the percentage of homes buying a ‘fixed network” service might actually continue to decrease, as tethering, 5G fixed wireless and Wi-Fi (especially homespot access) becomes widespread.

We might already be at the peak of fixed network internet access adoption. "Peak" cable TV adoption was about 80 percent (satellite competitors, then telcos, and now over the top streaming are taking share). "Peak voice" happened about 2000 or 2001, as mobile substitution took hold. Internet access is likely next to begin receding.

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