Thursday, July 17, 2008

Broadband adoption in U.S.: A mixed bag

A new study out by the Pew Internet and American Life Project shows that while 55% of all Americans have a broadband connection at home, up from 47% in early 2007, poorer Americans saw no increase during this time and their access rates are under 50% compared to more than 80% of upper-income Americans.

Why does this matter? In this age of bandwidth-greedy job preview videos, java-filled interactive career websites, and realistic job assessments, a high-speed connection is becoming increasingly a necessity. The good news is more than half of Americans can engage in these experiences at home. The bad news? Not only will access to some of these sites most likely have an adverse impact against certain groups (see below), this will reduce an organization's ability to draw an applicant pool that contains the most diverse backgrounds.

With that in mind, consider these findings:

* While 70% of those age 18-29 reported having broadband at home, only 50% of those age 50-64 did.

* While 57% of White respondents had broadband at home, only 43% of Black respondents did (let's see, four-fifths of 57% is...). On a more positive note, 56% of English-speaking Hispanic respondents had this access.

* 79% of those with at least a college education had home broadband access; only 40% of high school grads did.

* 60% of suburban respondents and 57% of urban respondents had this access; only 38% of rural respondents did.

"But people can always go to a library," is a response I often hear. That may be true, although not everyone lives within easy access of a library. But libraries aren't open 24/7. And many times they're busy during peak hours. And many aren't exactly a Starbucks cafe. Do you really want to create these barriers?

So what can we do about it? Here are some ideas:

* Make sure your careers site has a low-bandwidth alternative

* Consider offering a staffed on-site computer center that operates during off-peak hours (e.g., 6-8am, 5-7pm, weekends)

* Think long and hard about whether you're adopting bandwidth-hogging features because they're there or because they'll actually add value.

For more details, check out the report.

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