Survey: Wireless No Substitute For Wired Broadband

The Pew Internet & American Life Project released the results of an April survey now entitled, “Mobile Phone Problems.” Pew discovered that 72 percent of cell phone owners experience dropped calls and 68 percent receive unwanted sales and marketing calls.

The survey also focused on people who use their phones to go online. Some 88 percent of Americans own cell phones, and over half of them use phones to browse the internet, email, use apps or view video. But not very successfully:

“77% of cell internet users say they experience slow download speeds that prevent things from loading as quickly as they would like. Of those cell internet users, 46% face slow download speeds weekly or more frequently.”

Most surprising is the racial and ethnic divide.

“Non-white cell owners confront all four problems at somewhat higher weekly rates than do their white counterparts… For instance, more than half of Hispanic cell internet users (53%) face slow download times at least weekly or more often, compared with 44% of white cell internet users who report this problem.”

It may be that these groups, which include a higher proportion of low-income people, purchase cheaper, poorer service. But Pew offered another explanation. The phenomenon:

“… might be tied to the fact that African-Americans and Hispanics are more likely than whites to rely on their cell phones as their primary or exclusive phones for calling and for internet access.”

This reinforces the point that Speed Matters has previously shown: wireless is a supplement to, not a substitute for, wired broadband. For low-income people to improve their lives, they need to be able to reliably search for jobs, fill out applications, access medical information and participate in the community. Without wired broadband and a computer, they will be relegated to slow download speeds on a small screen, as well as contending with dropped calls and intrusive marketing. We all need broadband.

Pew Internet: Mobile Phone Problems (Pew report, Aug. 2, 2012)

Pew: 77% of Wireless Subscribers Complain About Slow Speeds (, Aug. 6, 2012)