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What Internet Trends Mean for Regulation

06.06.2018

Mary Meeker recently released her annual internet trends report, offering insight into how people across the world are using the internet and connected devices. There’s a lot to learn from her report, especially this year, under the backdrop of new tech regulation, media consolidation, and more people around the world connected to the internet than ever before.

But as we become more connected, broadband companies, legislators, and regulators around the world must strike a balance that allows for continued economic and prosperity while also protecting consumer rights. Here in the U.S., USTelecom is advocating for balanced regulatory frameworks that allow American companies to be nimble in the ever-changing global marketplace while protecting consumers’ rights in a fair and transparent way.

Here are some key take-aways from Meeker’s 294-slide report:

Global internet use and smart phone adoption were slower in 2017 than in prior years. That’s not to say internet or smartphone use are in decline—far from it—it’s just that as the world becomes more connected, new users are harder to reach. Growth slowed since internet adoption hit 50%.

Mobile device use continues to drive our time on digital media. Adult users spent an average of 5.9 hours each day using any digital media (including mobile devices, desktops/laptops, and others) in 2017, with growth fueled by use of mobile devices.

Everyday transactions are increasingly made digitally—an estimated 60% are online, mobile payments, app purchases, etc. versus 40% in-store. 

E-Commerce sales are driving year over year growth in retail. Mobile shopping grew 54% in 2017, more than any other in-app activity. And product delivery (UPS, FedEx, and USPS) continued its steady growth in 2017.

Advertisers are putting products directly in front of consumers through curated, targeted ads. Facebook leads in social media product discovery, followed by Instagram and Pinterest.

In-home smart devices like Amazon Echo are more popular than ever. In 2017 use of the Amazon Echo tripled to over 30 million since just one year prior.

User privacy is the price consumers are paying for quality, low-priced services from internet companies. Rising user engagement is driving monetization and investment in product improvements. Meanwhile, regulators’ concerns grow over ‘improper’ use of personal data. Europe stepped up privacy regulation big-time (GDPR), U.S. regulators concerns mount, and meanwhile, Chinese companies are taking giant leaps due to higher willingness to sacrifice personal data for innovation.

Subscription services continued to grow in 2017: Spotify up 48%, The New York Times up 43%, Stitch Fix up 31%, Netflix by 25%, and at-home exercise company Peleton up a staggering 173%.

Workers increasingly value a flexible schedule, and are turning to internet-based jobs with companies like Uber, Airbnb, Etsy, and others that offer the ability to freelance or work on-demand.

Each of these developments are made possible by the broadband companies that have laid the foundation for the innovation that has taken place over the last several decades. We look forward to seeing the effects of both regulation and deregulation on the industry’s continued evolution.