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Broadband Breakfast Panel Zooms In On Broadband Adoption

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WASHINGTON April 20, 2011 - National Telecommunications and Information Administration Deputy Administrator, Anna Gomez offered the keynote address Tuesday at this month's Broadband Breakfast panel, opening an event where panelists explored how to best to expand broadband adoption and maximize access.

“Expanding broadband is key to the Obama Administrations mission to expand innovation,” Deputy Administrator Gomez said, kicking off the event.

Gomez presented an overview of the recently released Digital Nation report, the largest and most in-depth study of broadband use and access ever conducted by the Commerce Department. The Census Department gathered and analyzed the data in conjunction with the NTIA.

The report found that while adoption rose 5 percent between 2009 to 2010; many households in America still do not subscribe to broadband speeds fast enough to do common internet activities, such as watch streaming video.

“This lack of access and speed mean that one third of Americans are cut off from the growing digital economy,” Gomez said. “Not having access to broadband cuts citizens off from vital resources.”

While there are many reasons why consumers do not adopt broadband, Gomez said that the Digital Nation report found that most non-adopters claim lack of interest as their main reason.

“We found that 28 percent of non-adopters claim lack of interest. This makes our targeted adoption programs through the Broadband Technology Opportunities Program even more important than we anticipated,” Gomez went on. “Many of our sustainable broadband projects are providing us key information on how these targeted populations are starting to use broadband. We intended to take the information we learn and expand it to programs across the nation.”

“One of the largest group of non-adopters are older Americans those over the age of 50, they just do not see the value of being online,” said Debra Berlyn, Executive Director of the Project to Get Older Adults onLine during the question-and-answer portion of the event. “Those seniors that are online do many of the same things that the rest of us do. They have particularly embraced social networking, video chatting and playing games.”

One Economy Corporation’s Vice President of Government Relations and National Engagement, BMaynard Scarborough, provided an overview of how his organization is teaching teens to train others in their community to use computers and the value of broadband access.

Scarborough also highlighted the need for organizations to work with each other to achieve their goals.

“No single group can solve all the problems we face, instead we need to work with each other bring our unique expertise to tackle this problem,” Scarborough said. “After this I plan to get in touch with Debra [Berlyn] to see how we can connect our teen teachers with her seniors”

Wendy Mann, Director of Communications at the National Telecommunications Cooperative Association, told the assembled group how adoption of broadband is vital for economic expansion in rural America. According to Mann, many cattle ranchers see the need to adopt broadband since it will directly help them conduct business but they lack access.

“Access is still an issue in many parts of rural America,” Mann said. “Additionally the cost of access is much higher which adds an additional barrier to adoption.”

New America Foundation’s Open Technology Initiative Director Sascha Meinrath echoed Mann’s statements about cost and access.

“Through our Measurement Lab project we’ve found that rural areas are systematically not being given access to high speeds,” Meinrath said. “Also the prices paid by those in the middle of the country are much higher than those paid by people living on the coasts.”

Rahul Gaitonde has been writing for since the fall of 2009, and in May of 2010 he became Deputy Editor. He was a fellow at George Mason University’s Long Term Governance Project, a researcher at the International Center for Applied Studies in Information Technology and worked at the National Telecommunications and Information Administration. He holds a Masters of Public Policy from George Mason University, where his research focused on the economic and social benefits of broadband expansion. He has written extensively about Universal Service Fund reform, the Broadband Technology Opportunities Program and the Broadband Data Improvement Act

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