Lack of infrastructure is often mentioned as the reason why people in developing countries often choose mobile Internet over home wired connections. A new study may change that notion, though, as it shows Americans are increasingly choosing mobile Internet over wired Internet as well.
The news comes as part of a bigger study on American online behavior conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau. While some of the results — such as that low-income families are relying primarily on their phones to get online — we already knew, what is new is that the use of mobile Internet is occurring across the board.
Even among those making $100,000 or more, 15 percent reported using their phones as their primary Internet connection in 2015, up nine percent from two years before. The same general increase was seen across every other demographic, with close to 3 in 10 Americans making under $25,000 now using their phones to go online at home.
It’s not exactly clear what might be behind this shift in preferences on Internet consumption. While income may play a part in the decision to choose one form over the other, Americans as a whole could just be deciding that it’s unnecessary to have both.
Just look at how far mobile Internet has come in the past few years. According to Akamai’s most recent State of the Internet report, mobile broadband speeds as of the end of 2015 averaged around 5 Mbps. That’s about the same as most standard wired broadband connections, making it viable for everyday use.
These changes could also mean big adjustments for Web companies that up until now focused on development for the desktop. With Americans turning to the mobile Web, developing full-featured and easy-to-navigate mobile websites will become more important than ever.
This could create a whole other type of digital divide, experts say. Income, race, and location used to split us into the haves and have-nots when it came to the Internet. Now with mobile Internet all the more popular, lack of sufficient access to services might be the problem, owing to poor mobile website design.
“This new divide is characterized not solely by whether an individual can use the Internet, but by the full range of capabilities available to the user, including whether that person can access sufficient service and a device that is suited to a particular task,” Office of Policy Analysis and Development chief economist Giulia McHenry writes.