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Balancing Broadband Supply and Demand in Quest to Stoke High-Speed Internet Adoption

in Broadband's Impact/FCC Workshops/National Broadband Plan by

Christina Kirchner, Reporter-Researcher,

WASHINGTON, November 5, 2009 - Panelists at the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation on Friday agreed that price and digital literacy have created a barrier to broadband demand that can affect more than just broadband adoption.

The event was based off of a report written by Robert Atkinson, president of ITIF, “Policies to Increase Broadband Adoption at Home.” The report said that of the 92 to 94 percent of Americans have the opportunity to subscribe to broadband, only 65 percent have chosen to do so. The broadband penetration number comes from the widely-regarded random-digit-dial surveys of the Pew Internet & American Life Project.

James Prieger, associate professor of public policy at Pepperdine University’s school of public policy, cited another barrier to adoption: the price of broadband service is just too high.

Creating subsidization programs for broadband, or lowering taxes that pertain to broadbandmight be additional possibilities, he said. Prieger said that Canada had used tax credits to subsidize broadband, which could be a possibility for the United States, too.

But Prieger cautioned, “Just because you have a plan, doesn’t mean that it is going to work.”

According to panelists, another problem for broadband adoption is that consumers may not recognize that all of the pieces of technology connected to broadband are not – for now – all going to use a single platform.

According to Atkinson, “People want a general purpose device, not a single purpose device.”

For that, he said, there must be a level of digital and technological literacy among citizens.

“Digital literacy means different things to different areas,” said Laura Taylor, chief policy officer at Connected Nation. “We need to address the issues, then tackling the issues at the same time.”

Prieger interjected by saying that digital literacy among the younger generation is not as big of a barrier as it is for the older generation. Children are gaining “general digital literacy,” in part, from the presence of technology in public schools.

As for that older generation, panelists said that many do not see the importance of being connected with broadband.

One way to get consumers more aware about the impact that broadband will have on their lives in to point out how companies – and local governments – are putting job applications on-line – and nowhere else! On line is the only way that many jobs will receive applications.

“We need to help stimulate demand,” said John Horrigan, consumer researcher for the National Broadband Taskforce with the Federal Communications Commission. “We don’t necessarily want to award ISPs [for the number of consumers they have], but award the consumers. This way seeds the adoption among users.”

Before joining the FCC’s National Broadband Taskforce, Horrigan directed the Pew Internet & American Life Project’s research into broadband.

Horrigan said that by spurring adoption, demand is stimulated, affecting supply by making broadband more affordable for consumers.

About was launched in January 2008, and uses “crowdsourcing” to collect the Broadband SPARC: Speeds, Prices, Availability, Reliability and Competition. The news on is produced by Broadband Census News LLC, a subsidiary of Broadband Census LLC that was created in July 2009.

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An intern at the National Journalism Center and a student at American University’s Washington Semester Program, Christina is a Reporter-Researcher for She is a student at Concordia College in Moorhead, Minnesota.

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