Availability of home high-speed service is one likely reason for the rural gap in home broadband adoption. Pew’s February 2004 survey asked respondents with dial-up service at home whether broadband service is available where they live. Among all dial-up users, 58% said broadband was available, 15% said it was not, and 26% didn’t know. For rural dial-up users, 38% said it was available, 27% said it was not, and 35% didn’t know.
These self-reported numbers are not without problems. Asking people whether the infrastructure in their neighborhood supports a particular service may be hard for some people to answer. They may not know ? as a large share of respondents said ? and some may be incorrect in whatever answer they do give. However, the internal consistency of the numbers (i.e., that rural users are more likely, as expected, to report lack of availability) suggests that infrastructure is partly behind lower broadband uptake in rural America.
Other forces are also likely behind the broadband gap. As noted, rural Americans are less likely to have online access by whatever means than non-rural Americans, and lower overall online penetration means lower broadband penetration. Demographics explain to some extent the lower penetration. Rural Americans are, on average, older, less educated, and with lower incomes than people living in other parts of the United States ? all factors associated with lower levels of online use.