Because It is Necessary to Be Online Today, the Continuing Digital Divide Poses a Serious Challenge to Policymakers

Broadband's Impact, FCC, NTIA February 11th, 2013

, Reporter, BroadbandBreakfast.com

WASHINGTON, February 11, 2013 – The increasing prevalence on job applications being online is just one of many reasons why it is vital to “close our nation’s digital divide and [improve] digital literacy,” Rep. Doris Matsui, D-Calif., said Thursday.

Having more people connected would in turn allow more people to have access to jobs and vital information, she said, speaking at the kickoff of the Federal Communications Commission’s broadband summit here. Of job applications, 80 percent are online only. (Presentation materials here.)

Echoing similar statements she made at recent joint committee hearing regarding the World Conference on International Telecommunications summit from December, Matsui said that the internet is no longer a luxury, but a necessity to everyday life.

Others at the FCC event, which was jointly hosted with the National Telecommunications and Information Administration of the U.S. Department of Commerce, and the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners, spoke about addressing the condition referred to as the “digital divide.”

John Horrigan, Vice President of the Media and Technology Institute of the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, said that “broadband adoption…is not a given in our society.”

Citing high cost as a major roadblock to broadband adoption, Tom Koutsky, chief policy counsel for Connected Nation, said that one in three Americans resist broadband services. Low-income families with children do not have the financial flexibility to afford broadband, he said.

Similarly, higher-income families who could adopt broadband are choosing not to do so, he said. These people may work long hours at work and, with broadband at work, don’t want it at home.

Additionally, the “greatest gap in home broadband adoption is among African American and whites who did not complete high school,” said Valerie Wilson of the National Urban League. Though price is a major factor, Koutsky believes that more than half of those who do not engage with broadband would not do so at any price.

While panelists agreed that broadband adoption was a necessity, members also spoke of the need for the public to improve their digital skills to adapt to the ever changing online climate. “This gathering is a sign of optimism,” said Horrigan.

In order to formulate a more pro-active broadband future, greater public-private partnerships are necessary, panelists agreed. Also, more competition would lead to more prices and more creative offerings, said Horrigan. He said that working to create and facilitate applications marketed towards specific sectors, such as educational institutions and the medical field, would help enhance broadband adoption and use.

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