People are ditching broadband, relying on their smartphones' LTE for internet access

For many folks, LTE is good enough.

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Credit: Thinkstock

We hear an increasing number of stories about cord cutters, people who ditch cable in favor of on-demand and Internet streaming. Well, some people are taking it one step beyond that and cutting home broadband entirely in favor of mobile connections.

A survey from the Pew Research Center found 80% of U.S. adults had Internet access this year, either through a smartphone or a home Internet connection, up from 78% two years ago. But the percentage of people who got Internet access via a cable or home phone provider fell from 70% in 2013 to 67% this year. 

Meanwhile, the percentage of people relying on cellphones alone for Internet rose to 13% this year, up from 8% in 2013. 

The dip in home Internet use could just be temporary, according to a Pew researcher, who noted that adoption flat-lined five years ago around the time of the recession and the period following the economic collapse of 2008. 

But we're not in as dire a situation as 2009, and there is a new reason for cord cutting: it's too expensive. Among those without home wired Internet, 33% say the biggest reason is the monthly cost is too high, while 10% say a computer is too expensive. Another 12% say they don't need it because a smartphone is sufficient. 

I can certainly empathize with people saying it costs too much. My monthly bill with Time-Warner is $65.99, a ludicrous amount. I'm not really buying the argument that computers are too expensive, what with the monthly cost of a smartphone and a decent data plan, but I also can't pretend to know everyone's economic situation. 

Now, many people cut their land lines because they worked exclusively with a smartphone. I found those people to be fairly technologically savvy and often high-income. But the same can't be said for people getting by with just a smartphone. Pew said that group is primarily low-income Americans. 

While I can understand their perspective, I also think it's a mistake to do all your compute work on a smartphone. Just writing email on my iPhone is a nuisance, mostly due to AutoCorrect. I can't imagine doing complex Web tasks, or for that matter, writing this blog post on an iPhone. PCs are awfully cheap these days; I'd rather bite the bullet and get the PC. Plus, LTE coverage, while often good, is spotty. I live in a canyon and cell coverage is very mixed here. 

Only 5% of people who don't have home broadband say that it's primarily because it's not available or the speed is too slow. Nearly half of people who don't have broadband at home have never had it and aren't interested. Not surprisingly, 39% of that group are 65 or older. 

The Pew report conducted several polls in the spring, summer, and fall of 2015 that included, in total, 6,687 adults and referenced a similar 2013 survey. The margin of error for the home adoption finding was plus or minus 1.3 percentage points in 2015 and 1.4 percentage points in 2013.

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