Elon University

The 2004 Survey: Prediction about how people go online

Responses in reaction to the following statement were assembled from a select group of 1,286 Internet stakeholders in the fall 2004 Pew Internet & American Life Predictions Survey. The survey allowed respondents to select from the choices “agree,” “disagree” or “I challenge” the predictive statement. Some respondents chose to expand on their answer by writing an explanation of their position; many did not. Some respondents chose to identify themselves with their answer; many did not. We share some – not all – of the responses here. Workplaces of respondents whose reactions are listed below are attributed here only for the purpose of indicating a level of internet expertise; the statements reflect personal viewpoints and do not represent their companies’ or government agencies’ policies or positions. Some answers have been edited in order to share more respondents’ replies. Below is a selection of the many carefully considered responses to the following statement.

By 2014, 90 percent of all Americans will go online from home via high-speed networks that are dramatically faster than today’s high-speed networks.

Compiled reactions from the 1,286 respondents:
  52% of internet experts agreed
  20% disagreed
  8% challenged the prediction
  20% did not respond

Ninety percent is too high. Penetration of wired phones is only 94.2 percent! Adoption will probably not be significantly higher than take-up of PCs, which after all these years is still WELL below 90 percent. – J. Scott Marcus, Federal Communications Commission

Agree with most. Largest not-online group is elderly. But many of the elderly of 2014 today are younger and more likely online and will stay so. Approaching 90% is thus feasible. And high-speed – relative to dial-up – is also on a trend today to get us close to that proportion. I’m more doubtful that 90% will have high-speed connections that are “dramatically faster” than today. Many will, but not all. So two of the three parts of this prediction could happen. – Benjamin M. Compaine, communications policy expert, editor of “The Digital Divide: Facing a Crisis or Creating a Myth?” and co-author of “Who Owns the Media?”

Without substantial government assistance, this will not happen until ISPs and/or telecom companies find the cost of providing all homes with broadband is worthwhile in terms of the data they will mine. – Lois Ambash, Metaforix Inc.

Whoa. First you have to get 90% online. I don’t think that is possible given current trends. I do believe broadband will be widely used, however. Still, will it be faster than today? Only if we can come up with novel ways to make that pay for itself. – David Tewksbury, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

I don’t know if it will be 90% but certainly 50%-75%. – Jonathan Peizer, CTO, Open Society Institute

Not nearly enough thought has been given to how heavy home use of the Internet will affect relations within the household. Sociability, social support, social capital and authority will be challenged. Who is paid attention to — the screen or the family? Who has access to better information? – Barry Wellman, University of Toronto

We’re almost there. Ironically, it’s our competitive marketplace that holds us up. While we have networks that fail to integrate and be interoperable, nationalized approaches in places no more tech-capable (e.g., South Korea and Italy) are really further along in this respect. – George Otte, technology expert

Ten years is too short, and the networks won’t get much faster by then. But lots of people will have broadband at home. – Susan Crawford, fellow with the Center for Democracy & Technology and a fellow with the Yale Law School Information Society Project

Most access to the internet will be via wireless networks, especially as cities begin to establish WiFi grids. Just as many Americans are foregoing their land-lines at home for cell phones, I suspect that they will give up their broadband for wireless. – A. Halavais, State University of New York at Buffalo

It’s too extreme a prediction. A lot more people are going to be on home access broadband, and it’s very likely that this will involve wireless access or access through power lines. I just don’t think its possible to have 90 percent of ALL Americans on these new types of high speed networks in ten years. Perhaps ninety percent of current home internet users, but not ninety percent of total Americans, from their homes. – Robert Lunn, FocalPoint Analytics/USC Digital Future Project

No. We’re not going to get there. This will be true in South Korea, Japan and perhaps Singapore, but not in the United States. Recent public policy has already doomed this dream to failure in my view. – Kevin Featherly, editor, Healthcare Informatics, McGraw-Hill

Half-Meg broadband penetration in the UK stands at over 95% and new homes are starting to be built with 100Mbps, CAT5 enabled. The USA will make a national commitment to FTTH [fiber to the home] within 5 years. – Steve Coppins, South East England Development Agency/Siemens

Not sure it will reach 90%, based on historic growth patterns. The wild card will be projects such as CENIC, which offer government or govt./corporate collaboration to build and maintain and train users for such high-speed access. – Gary Arlen, Arlen Communications

Absolutely. We will all have at least 40-100 mb/s (40 for the more remote areas) with many fiber-connected homes. The technology for even simple copper-based lines (ADSL2+ and cable) already can do 20-100. And since Moore’s law and all the other laws are still valid in 10 years it will not be problem to go higher. Now at some time it will cost more than just put fiber to the homes, so we will go that way, providing almost unlimited bandwidth possibilities. – Egon Verharen, innovation manager, SURFnet (Dutch National Education & Research Network)

Due to regulatory and monopolistic limitations presented by the FCC, RBOCS, and cable industry, the U.S. will fall further behind many industrial countries as far as overall usage and internet speed. There will be some overall improvements in mobile computing primarily produced by wireless technologies. – Pat Murphy, CAPE.com Internet Services

Ninety percent of all Americans is too high a number for adoption in a decade. By 2014, there will be still be 25% of the American population that will not be connected to the Internet through their home using connections as fast as today’s high-speed networks. This will be through a combination of factors that delay adoption, from persistently socio-economically disenfranchised segments, less desirable markets for companies to target, to those that choose not to be connected. – Dan Ness, MetaFacts

This assumes a high degree of literacy and technical fluency in the U.S. population. With adult literacy rates among the lowest in the industrialized nations, I think it’s unlikely. – Laura Breeden, Education Development Center

Satellite’s too iffy. Telco’s only needed to figure out a marketing/pricing strategy in the late ’90s and couldn’t. In that same time, cable tore up and repaved every road in America as they rolled out two-way networks. They won, and are not about to do it again to lay fiber. – Steven Brier, Brier Associates

Ninety percent of people won’t be interested in going ”online” as we think of it now though they may inadvertently be online, watching TV, or their refrigerator may send out for milk on its own. There are two groups: those who engage actively those who do not. Of those that DO go online, I’m sure 90 percent of those will do so on higher-speed facilities – Sam Punnett, FAD Research

And the following are from predictors who chose to remain anonymous: [Workplaces of respondents whose reactions are listed include Intel, RAND, University of California at Berkeley, Harvard University, U.S. Census Bureau, Microsoft, Internet2, MIT, BMC, Penn State University, Media General, University of Pennsylvania, University of Minnesota, University of Illinois, Carnegie Mellon, The Results Group, FCC, Advanced Microdevices, AT&T, Moody’s, Resource Interactive and others.]

No way will we get 90% deployment of next-generation, high-speed connections in 10 years. That would imply a massively expensive infrastructure rollout.

So far, the speed of networks has been increasing quite steadily. The demand is very far from being satisfied (today’s home connections can’t even support TV-quality video). While you’re looking for cheap predictions, here are some more: the CPUs will be faster, computers will have more memory, and there will be more computers.

Dramatically faster, yes, but 90% of all Americans – I doubt that. 30% of the kids won’t even have access at a grand level in their schools – how will they have this in their homes.

“Dramatically” needs to be 1 gbps up and down. Yes, that’s gigabit per second.

Only if the government subsidizes the great divide between the haves and the have-nots with respect to computers, computer training, and the cost of access.

I don’t expect it to be that high of a percentage. I expect broadband to fully replace dialup. I don’t expect the total percentage of home users to grow much larger. It looks like it has reached a “natural limit” determine by other factors, such as education, interests, etc.

Costs will go down. And high-speed access will be a must to access the best content. The market will push people towards it.

90% is a bit high, given our poverty rate. But maybe … TV managed to penetrate that far. So maybe.

Not sure about the percentages, but yes, I suspect most Americans will enjoy such connections. The real concerns are about those who are left behind – people living on Indian reservations, the homeless – who will be even less connected to the resulting culture.

Speeds may be up, but dramatically? Throughput will rise more slowly than volume as what gets shipped grows faster than the media of shipping. And, no more than 75% of Americans will have daily access, and an increasingly large number will be only able to access via third party (provided by someone, but with restrictions) and controlled public (sometimes at a public kiosk or library) on a more sporadic basis. That is, social-access rates will actually be far below network-access rates.

There is too much old technology that will last much longer than 10 years.

Agree – will be a mix of wired and wireless. Broadband connectivity will be ubiquitous.

Increasing income disparity will continue to keep at least 20% from having Internet in the home.

By 2014, most people will be “online” everywhere they go using broadband spectrum connections when “on the go” and fiber when at home. At least 2% of population will be “unconnected” whether they can afford it or not and a significant population (20-40%) will not be able to afford these connections.

By 2014, the fiber will be plastic, driving the costs down, and the fiber will come all the way to the home, rather than the current node architecture that exists today. It will be cheaper. It will be faster. But they’ll also go online from anywhere, anytime – wirelessly.

That’s just not possible given the small numbers still that are online today. Unless the govt. gives every home a computer and high-speed connections are as common as regular phones, it won?t happen.

It may be satellite instead by then.

Not unless someone wants to pony up about $100 billion for a national information infrastructure.

I agree that networks will be faster but it seems unlikely that 90% of Americans will have access to this technology, for socio-economic reasons.

It will take more than ten years to get 90% of people on “small broadband” (<3 Mbps) networks; we certainly won’t see 90% on “big broadband” networks.

Not in 10 years. Even now, only 94% of the U.S. have phones.

The trend has the right sign, but the proposed target is too ambitious.

Broadband penetration will probably top out roughly where dialup did – short of 90%. Today several cities have 60-70% penetration rates. I suspect that we will see penetration rates in the low to mid 80s in most places.

I don’t expect broadband access to reach 90% of households.

Today’s broadband will most likely reach 90% penetration within five years. Following closely behind, “big broadband” will roll out slowly at first, then accelerate. By 2014, the goal should be to have 100 megabits to 1 gigabit of connectivity to all homes, an achievable goal.

The final-mile problem won?t be solved to that degree.

I agree, but more likely 60-80%. Many of those ages 60+ today will not have changed their habits.

This is a purely an economic limitation; it seems likely in the timeframe indicated.

The digital divide will persist so that 90% of Americans won’t be online that soon.

Infrastructure will not support this, unless satellite Internet technology improves.

America lacks a commitment to infrastructure.

The Bells will rush fiber to the home to recapture the telecom residential monopolies, and that will be that.

[It will happen] via the electric grid.

We know from the diffusion of other media technologies that to achieve 90% is not likely to happen in this time period. Many people will refuse to join the mass.

This is a no-brainer. Cable internet speeds are ramping up already from their original 1.5Mb/sec speed caps.

The only dramatically faster option is last-mile fiber optics, which is very expensive, and for most people, does not offer sufficient gains to justify the cost. Even if it does, it will take 10 years to lay it, and no one has really started.

This number can only be achieved if high-speed networks and Internet appliances are as inexpensive as today’s low-end television sets. I know you are mostly concerned with Americans, but worldwide, this will absolutely not be true. People in the world today (outside North America) enjoy the Internet using 9600Kb transfer rates!

The supply of new technology, mixed with lower costs, will drive high-speed Internet access.

I don’t see this happening. there is not political ”traction” (or funding) for such a sweeping infrastructure change. I think the U.S. will continue to lag behind most other developed countries in this regard.

Unless you make cheap wireless networks that plug into people’s homes, the economic stratification will not allow everyone to afford the homes that contain such networks. As with the advent of the cellular phone market any new type of device, a training or plug-and-play campaign will have to be put in place to make this happen, and I don’t think that the government will support such a plan or help to put it in place. Aren’t we already supposed to have high-definition TV (and maybe one day digital TV) as a standard form of broadcast?

Depending on the cost of access – if high-speed broadband continues to be sold through the oligopoly/local monopoly system, we won’t see the number hit 90% … that is an extremely high figure – particularly when you consider that currently 90% of households aren’t even online, let alone at high speed.

Many people will be left behind, and broadband will become an upper-middle-class entitlement.