Better Broadband Better Lives

Panelists Ponder Whether, ‘If We Build It, They Will Come?

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WASHINGTON, June 23, 2010 – The last panel discussion of the Broadband for America conference discussed the promotion of broadband adoption. Several of the panelists cited the statistic that 37% of the population that has access to the internet does not use it even though approximately 94% of Americans have access of some kind.

The panel was moderated by Arva Johnson, corporate vice president of technology policy and industry affairs for Bright House Networks said that this issue is not about availability it is about making a use case “if we build it, will they come?”

Joe Savage, president of Fiber to the Home Council, said that approximately 50% of the households which have access to a network that the company manages subscribe to the service.

Navarrow Wright, president of Maximum Leverage Solutions said that the number of non-users with access increases to 44% in low-income areas. He said that most people who choose not to subscribe to broadband do not understand how it will directly benefit their lives. Explaining that you can talk to your grandmother in California for free using programs like Skype or Google Voice is an example of how to get someone to appreciate access according to Wright.
Laurie Lipper, co-founder of the Children’s Partnership, said that there were 3 pillars to combating non-adoption she had learned through the campaign her nonprofit has carried out since 1993. One is to find community leadership, someone that the people trust because internet adoption can be scary. The second is finding relevant uses and content, showing people how the Internet can improve their lives and how it can be hyper-local with its content. The last one is providing training and support, showing how to use what can be a complicated piece of equipment, and how to protect and fix your computer is an essential barrier to overcome.

Wright said that in his experience he observed a misnomer about computers: that people say “this isn’t for me.” You may find a Playstation or a Wii in a home, but a computer has no value. “We have to change that thinking,” Wright said, children think it is easier to become a pro athlete than it is to become an internet entrepreneur.

David Cup is working at through an internship with the National Journalism Center. A student at the Franciscan University in Steubenville, Ohio, he is pursuing the majors of Political Science and Journalism. He has worked on his school yearbook and written for the Franciscan Sports Information Department.

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