U.S. Broadband Users Concentrated in Cities

More than 30 percent of all broadband users in the United States live in the top five metropolitan areas, according to data from Nielsen//NetRatings.

New York dominates the high-speed access market with more than 10 percent of U.S. broadband population living in the city or its surrounding metropolitan area. Nearly 6 percent of the country’s high-speed Internet users reside in Los Angeles, while the San Francisco area is home to 5.7 percent. Boston and Seattle round out the top five markets with 4.7 and 3.6 percent.

“In the past, high-speed providers focused the rollout of their services to the top local market regions, like New York,” said T.S. Kelly, director of Internet media strategies at NetRatings. “New York’s building unit density has allowed for higher broadband usage growth, compared to the rest of the top local markets. The city’s apartment dwellings provide a much bigger consumer target than regions that have predominantly single-family units.”

According to Nielsen//NetRatings, broadband access increased 134 percent in the past year. Nearly 16 million users accessed the Internet from home during April 2001 using a cable modem, DSL, ISDN or LAN, compared to only 6.8 million in April 2000.

“Broadband serves as the perfect platform for rich media and the ‘always on’ allure could help legitimize the Internet as a mainstream medium for content and advertising, allowing for faster and convenient access to news and entertainment on the Web,” Kelly said. “As local telcos and cable companies expand their high-speed offerings, the increased availability of services for the rest of the U.S., coupled with competitive pricing and dynamic content can further increase the growth of broadband.”

Broadband Users by Local Market Area
Rank Local Market Percent of
1. New York 10.2
2. Los Angeles 5.9
3. San Francisco 5.8
4. Boston 4.7
5. Seattle 3.6
6. Dallas 3.5
7. Chicago 3.1
8. Philadelphia 2.9
9. San Diego 2.7
10. Detroit 2.4
Source: Nielsen//NetRatings

Ethnographic and survey data gathered by Horowitz Associates, Inc. found that young, multicultural, children- and family-oriented urban markets are poised for the broadband era. A study of urban consumers across the United States shows them to be an extremely television-oriented marketplace, with multiple television sets and high levels of in-home media consumption. Closing the digital divide between the television and computer and Internet could be a major market opportunity.

“Watching and listening to real people interact with their media tools reveals a disjuncture between behavior and perception. The TV is core, but it’s also an object of derision; in some ways perceived as demonic, all the while it is ‘King of the House,'” said Alisse Waterston, head of Horowitz’s cultural research division. “On the other hand, computers and the Internet are held up high — exalted and receiving nearly unqualified endorsement. The urban stories uncovered by the ethnographers offer the prospect of bringing the TV and the computer together, both physically and symbolically, no small task but a great opportunity in ‘converged,’ urban spaces.”

A survey of a representative, multicultural sample of 2,000 urban households discovered that 98 percent had more than one television (for an average of 2.8 sets per household). On the other hand, compared to national households, urban households have lower PC penetration and lower Internet penetration; ownership of personal computer and Internet access is particularly low among black and Hispanic urban consumers.

“The flip side of the traditional digital divide is a huge market opportunity,” said Howard Horowitz. “Another digital divide is the physical and psychological gap that currently exists between the television and the computer. Broadband media service providers need to close this gap with technology to the TV, making broadband as ubiquitous and as ‘always-on’ as television is today.”

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