And much of the video streaming is being done on mobile devices, according to a separate study, which reported that YouTube was the most popular mobile Internet service. YouTube accounted for 22 percent of mobile data bandwidth usage and 52 percent of total video streaming in the first half of the year, according to broadband consulting firm Allot Communications.
The findings raise fresh questions about how video-hungry consumers will be affected by data caps and how carriers will be able to handle the explosion of traffic on their networks. We wrote Monday about Netflix’s concerns about data caps, or metered billing, which are being introduced by a growing number of fixed-wire and wireless Internet service providers.
Americans are creating, sharing and viewing video online more than ever, Pew reported in a study released Tuesday. The percentage of American adults online using video-sharing sites such as YouTube or Vimeo increased to 71 percent in May 2011 from 66 percent the year before.
Blacks and Hispanics were the most active video consumers online — with 76 percent of African Americans and 81 percent of Hispanics saying they used video-sharing sites.
Household income level didn’t have much effect on video sharing: 71 percent of users with annual incomes less than $30,000 said they use the services, along with 81 percent of users with incomes above $75,000 a year.
Some Internet service providers attribute the burst of traffic on their networks for their decision to impose tiered data packages and do away with all-you-can-eat flat-rate plans.
Last month, AT&T general counsel Wayne Watts wrote in a letter to the editor in the Wall Street Journal that video traffic on its wireline network grew 500 percent between early 2007 and the end of 2010.
“As data traffic on wired networks grows, requiring more investment in more bandwidth, it’s only fair that those who use the most pay for what they use,” Watts wrote. “Only 2% of AT&T broadband customers use 20% of the bandwidth on our network today. Usage-based pricing ensures that the vast majority of customers are not forced to subsidize the enormous data consumption of a very small minority of broadband users.”
But public interest groups and some policy experts say data caps may curb Internet use — particularly among minorities who depend on wireless access to the Internet.
“What’s difficult about the justifications from ISPs is that it’s a black box on how they come up with their data caps and if the limits are justified,” said Harold Feld, a policy experts at public interest group Public Knowledge. “Minorities risk getting hit hardest by things like overage fees and penalties.”