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broadband adoption

U.S. is Doing Fine in Broadband Performance, According to Study by Information Technology and Information Foundation

in Broadband's Impact/International by

WASHINGTON, February 12, 2013 – The United States is, in fact, among the world leaders in broadband deployment, according to a study released Tuesday by the Information Technology and Information Foundation.

“Through this report, we identify multiple areas where America is doing well, where improvement is needed and most importantly the real reasons for some areas of lagging performance,” Rob Atkinson, president of ITIF, said at an event to market the release of the study.

Speaking at a panel discussion, ITIF’s Richard Bennett said that Hispanics and African Americans are among the lowest adopters of broadband. He also noted that high-school dropouts, no matter what race, are the lowest adopters of broadband. Areas in need of improvement are digital and physical literacy in urban areas, he said.

The ITIF study found that the U. S. “is near the top of the rankings in terms of the deployment and adoption of high-speed, wired networks and leads the [Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development] in adoption of advanced wireless LTE broadband networks.” LTE refers to the long-term evolution standard for fourth-generation wireless broadband.

While not the top country in terms of speeds, the study concluded that the U.S. has one of the top ten broadband speeds in the world.

Bennett noted that statistics such as these have been helped along by a recent boom in broadband investment, including the greatest purchase of fiber-optic cables in 2011, since the internet boom in 2000.

The report and panel concluded that price may not be the biggest factor when determining who is using broadband. According to the report, the U.S. ranks second only to Israel in introductory broadband pricing. The report concludes that the country “needs to invest significantly more in policies and programs that encourage more of our residents to come online and reap the benefits of the broadband Internet.”

Internet Innovation Alliance Strikes Positive Note About Broadband and Apps Economy in 2013

in Broadband's Impact/Congress/Education/FCC/Health by

WASHINGTON, January 24, 2013 – Broadband is about more than internet connection speeds, but now is everywhere, and affecting the way that consumers interacting with constantly-connected devices, according to a guide released by the Internet Innovation Alliance.

The IIA guide highlights the usage of broadband connectivity in the advancement of distance learning in schools, as well as how an internet protocol-based network can impact the consumer’s availability and access to healthcare. One healthcare application is a “technology- enabled electronic stethoscope, which amplifies heart sounds while canceling out ambient noise.”

Additionally, the guide offers IIA’s answers common questions such as Where did the internet come from? Who owns the internet? And how should members of Congress and the FCC work together in the regulation of communications networks?

The guide notes that 66 percent of American households have adopted some form of broadband in the year 2012. That number is exactly double 2005’s number. Additionally, from January to June 2012, the tech industry saw a 1.7 percent increase in new jobs, with 100,000 new hires.

The guide also notes which states are ahead of and behind the curve for broadband. California, New Jersey, Virginia and Massachusetts are among the states ahead of the curve for broadband “adoption, network quality and economic structure.” Alaska, New Mexico, Wyoming and Arkansas rank near the bottom.

Looking ahead to 2013, IIA strikes a positive note. Economist Michael Mandel said that the applications economy “didn’t exist five years ago, and now employs more than 500,000 Americans.” As the shift into cloud computing continues, the IIA says that 2013 is the time where “our innovators innovate, or entrepreneurs compete and ensure consumers have the knowledge and the freedom to make the most of the technology available to them.”

The full guide can be read at


The Broadband

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Lifeline Reform One More Step Toward Adoption

in FCC/Universal Service by

WASHINGTON, January 27, 2012 – A couple weeks ago, Federal Communications Commission Chairman Julius Genachowski announced the FCC’s Order to modernize the Universal Service Fund’s Lifeline Program. In a week where almost all of the media’s attention was focused on new technologies and innovative gadgets at the International Consumer Electronics Show, Genachowski reminded the public of the challenges facing basic broadband adoption — and the importance of the FCC universal service efforts over the past two years.

He noted the FCC’s recent accomplishments including overhauling the universal service fund and intercarrier compensation systems as well as setting up balanced rules to preserve internet freedom and openness. He praised the elimination of over 200 outdated rules and data collections, the general crackdown on fraud and abuse and the additional $67 million logged in enforcement penalties and settlements. Genachowski highlighted the FCC’s efforts to place many of the FCC’s programs under the microscope. The Chairman added, “a program can be efficient and fiscally responsible and still be ineffective. That’s why we’ve also asked if programs need to be modernized to meet today’s needs.”

In asking whether the programs are serving the right policy goals of today’s broadband world, the Commission has already reformed the Video Relay Service, the E-Rate program, the largest part of the USF and ICC systems. With the decision to reform the Universal Service Fund’s Lifeline Program, the Chairman praised the Commission’s efforts in following through with Congress’ directive, ensuring that “consumers in all regions, including low income consumers…should have access to telecommunications and information services.”

As valuable as the Lifeline program has been to low income families it has had its share of problems and additional costs on consumers nationwide. Carriers are providing lifeline services to individuals that already receive lifeline services from another carrier, and carriers have abused the program by receiving additional funds for signing up homes that do not qualify for program support. The proposed reforms will aim to standardize eligibility requirements and clarify rules to prevent duplicative support.

Genachowski announced three goals for a reformed program. Those include cost controls, a budget designed to address the issues consistent with programs purpose, and a shift to supporting high speed internet as a vital communications platform.

Initial phases of the Lifeline reform began last summer when the Commission adopted an order clarifying that an eligible consumer may only receive one lifeline supported service, creating procedures to detect and de-enroll subscribers with duplicate lifeline supported services. “As a result of these actions we’ve already identified more than 200,000, duplicative Lifeline subscriptions for elimination,” touted Genachowski.

The order establishes clear goals for the program as well as metrics to measure progress towards the goals.


– Create a National Lifeline Accountability Database – to minimize contribution burden for consumers and businesses

– Create a budget – to eliminate unnecessary spending

– Create accountability measures – every carrier that receives over a specified annual amount of funds will be subject to independent audits every two years.

– Create national eligibility criteria to ensure that low income consumers meet federal standards in order to participate – the eligibility standard will take into account the unique circumstances of Tribal communities and allow states to add additional criteria.

– Transparency – the order would make Lifeline reimbursements more transparent and streamlined so carriers receive funds for subscribers actually served

– Protect and empower consumers – the order would provide more information to consumers about program requirements

– Order will modernize Lifeline from telephone to broadband

– Broadband Adoption Pilot Program – transitioning the program to support broadband would require a program that would test and determine how Lifeline can best be used to increase broadband adoption among Lifeline eligible consumers.

According to Genachowski, the program would solicit applications from providers and select a number of projects to fund. Applicants will be expected to use the Lifeline support to reduce the monthly cost of broadband and also address the cost of purchasing broadband devices and lack of digital literacy.

The data derived from the Broadband Adoption Pilot Program as well as all of the other adoption programs across the country will be used to understand how to best transition Lifeline support to broadband

Next Tuesday January 31st, the Commission takes up the Order in a full Commission meeting.

Expert Opinion: Get Our Older Adults Online

in Broadband's Impact/Expert Opinion by

If you’re like most consumers today, you’re spending many hours a day online, surfing the Internet for information, sending and receiving e-mails, watching videos, exchanging photos, communicating on social networks, playing games, and shopping online.  However, within the older adult community, age 65+, only a little over a third have adopted broadband and are able to go online at home.

With much of our information, entertainment, commerce, and even government services now on the Internet, our seniors have rapidly become the most digitally divided segment of our society – and with the great benefits the Internet has to offer our aging community, they’re missing out on an opportunity to improve their lives at a most critical point.

What does going online do to help improve the lives of our older adults?  The Internet helps make it possible to age in place; remain where you live and bring important health and support services right into your own home.  Second, it reduces isolation, providing an opportunity to connect with family and friends regardless of geographical distances.

Going online also offers the convenience and financial savings of online shopping.  With most government services now online, older adults can receive important government benefits and services more easily and promptly.  Finally, let’s not forget the entertainment value of the Internet:  playing bridge or scrabble, social networking, watching a video, video chatting with children and grandchildren, and exchanging photos are among just some of the enjoyable activities online.

With so many benefits the Internet has to offer, it’s unfortunate more of our older adults aren’t online.  There are some challenges to getting older adults online that need to be addressed, with perhaps the two most important being relevance to everyday life and unfamiliarity with the technology.   The challenges of adapting to technology later in life are substantial.  However, there are numerous training programs in the communities around the country specifically geared toward older individuals.  The programs – at community centers, libraries, senior centers, religious institutions, and non-profit organizations – are assisting older adults with the tips and tools they need to be safe and responsible users of the Internet (that’s right — online safety and privacy are issues for older adults, too!).  Also, the advances in technology have led to great new devices, such as the tablet, that are more intuitive to use, requiring little or no training to get online.

As far as demonstrating the relevance of going online, there’s not one, most important value.  For some older individuals it could be video chatting with a grandchild who lives across the country.  With another, it could be the importance of social networking and connecting with others to help reduce the isolation and loss that occurs as one gets older.  For someone else, it could be the opportunities of telemedicine and other important health support systems in the home.

Project GOAL is working to demonstrate how older adults are able to enrich their lives by getting online.  While demonstrating the value, we are also working on addressing the challenges.  Check our website for our most recent publication that helps inform older adults about how they can stay safe and protect their privacy online.

The Internet offers a world of opportunity for older adults and it’s important that more within this community adopt broadband and get online.


Debra Berlyn serves as the Executive Director of The Project to Get Older Adults onLine (GOAL), and she is also the President of Consumer Policy Solutions. Ms. Berlyn is a seasoned veteran of telecommunications and consumer policy issues and an advocate for consumers of technology services. She represented AARP on the digital television transition and has worked closely with national aging organizations on several Internet issues, including online safety and privacy concerns.

Expert Opinion: The New Market Frontier in Technology

in Broadband's Impact/Education/Expert Opinion/Health/Minority/The Innovation Economy/Universal Service by

Last year, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) recognized the role of technology in strengthening this country’s economy by investing 7.2 million in funding into technology and broadband adoption initiatives through the Broadband Technology Opportunity Program (BTOP).  Through this funding the United States can build technology infrastructures and bring low-income residents online for the first time. However, technology in and of itself is not what is important. What is important is how people, families and communities use that technology to improve their lives. What will drive adoption and sustainability?  Why will someone come online for the first time?  What did we learn as an industry and society in bringing the first 100M on line that can help us in bringing the last 100M online?  What is the real cost benefit analysis on people having access to information that directly impacts the way they manage their health, educate their children or plan for their financial future.  I challenge all of us not to look at the cost of building these networks – but rather the cost of not building it.

The people in the low-income communities must be the next wave of broadband consumers to come online … this is the next new market frontier.  At its most pragmatic level, driving broadband adoption is in its essence creating an emerging market demand that will create billions of dollars of economic value and impact.

The NTIA recently published reports that there are an estimated 100 million Americans that have not adopted broadband at home. Five years ago, many households were unconnected because of coverage and availability.  The technology industry has made tremendous gains in providing network coverage to the vast majority of the nation.  Our current challenge and focus should be on broadband adoption and sustainability.

In some initial research and analysis we have done in some of One Economy’s targeted cities, we have found that the majority of low to medium income households are usually concentrated within five to seven zip codes in a large urban area.  From a wireless planning perspective, this actually is good news.  One of the key factors to manage the cost of deploying wireless services is household density per square mile.  The more people living close together, the easier it is to serve for a wireless network.

In the top 25 markets in the US – there is an addressable market of approximately six million low- to moderate-income households that live in these neighborhoods that are not currently adopting broadband.  Imagine if you will, if we can leverage new technology under the guidance of a National Broadband Plan and move the adoption/penetration needle by 5 percentage points.  This represents 300,000 new broadband households that can be brought into the digital age – creating in the excess of $50M in potential annual revenue for those carriers that deploy those services.

We are in a very rare moment in time – where we can remove barriers for participation and establish a new precedent for digital inclusion.  However, that success will be found in a collaborative, partnership model. Success stories will be driven by those companies that figure out how to work with the embedded community organization and leverage their reach and trust that they have established in the neighborhoods they serve. Industry has an obligation and opportunity to build a better model that would help unlock this potential.

Whatever we do should make as much business sense as it does social sense.  Digital Opportunity is not a one shot thing – it is a self sustaining ecosystem that can create a new business roadmap that low income families can come on line easier, faster and for longer periods of time.  It is the model where for-profit companies work with non-profit community-based organizations on how to reduce these barriers for entry.  How you market and launch new 4G services in suburban Virginia has to be dramatically different than how you would launch service in Ward 8 in the District of Columbia.  In our low-income areas, the planning and approach needs to be bottom up.

In 2009, the Knight Commission concluded in the Information Needs of Communities in a Democracy, that denial of digital access equals denial of opportunity. Anyone caught on the wrong side of three gaps, broadband, literacy and participation, runs a significant risk of being left behind. The Commission further concludes that all people have a right to be fully informed.  Americans cannot compete globally without new public policies and investment in technology.

The mission to bring all American’s online with affordable and sustainable broadband is not an option, but a moral and economic imperative.  Our ability to connect to the world and connect to each other is in many ways becomes a necessity—not a luxury.

From corporations to nonprofits and political leaders, we must use our collective talents, resources and inspiration to drive social change so that we can build and implement these new approaches to bring those not as  – into the connected world so that they have the same access to information, people and opportunity as the rest of the country.  Not only can we do it now better than ever before – but has never been as important for our future as it is right here and right now.


FCC Finds VoIP Subscribership Growing While Broadband Adoption Stagnates

in Broadband Data/Broadband's Impact/FCC by

WASHINGTON March 22,2011 – The Federal Communications Commission released a pair of annual reports on Monday showing rapid growth in adoption rates for Voice over IP, but stagnation in broadband adoption.

According to the Local Telephone Competition report, consumers are increasingly choosing to use Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) rather than traditional phone services, likely as a result of the growth of broadband. The FCC found that more than a quarter of residential telephone customers now connect through VoIP. Between June 2009 and 2010, VoIP subscribership grew by more than 20 percent. The majority of those consumers subscribe to the service via their cable providers rather than third party companies such as Vonage or Magic Jack.

The Broadband Deployment report showed the growth of fixed broadband adoption slowed to only one percent over last year’s report. Between 2006 and 2009, fixed broadband grew by an average of 5 percent annually.

The broadband data collected shows that nearly two-thirds of customers connect at speeds slower than 4 megabits per second (Mbps) – the speed that the FCC determined to be the baseline for broadband. The FCC established the benchmark in last year’s report.

Wireline connections accounts for 57.5 percent of connections while mobile wireless is 42.4 percent.

The Internet Access Services report is compiled annually from data gathered by the FCC. The goal of the report is to present standardized information about broadband subscribership throughout the nation.

The full report can be found here.

Digital Impact Group: Persistent Digital Divide Among Low-Income Individuals

in Broadband Plan Commentary/Expert Opinion/National Broadband Plan by

Editor’s Note: The following guest commentary appears by special invitation of Broadband Census News. Neither nor endorse the views in the commentary. We invite officials, experts and individuals interested in the state of broadband to offer commentaries of their own. To offer a commentary, please e-mail Not all commentaries may be published.

By Greg Goldman, CEO, Digital Impact Group; and Lee Huang, Econsult Corporation

PHILADELPHIA, Penn., March 8, 2010 – There is a persistent digital divide among low-income individuals, households, and communities throughout the US, as it relates to “always on” high-speed Internet access in homes. Over 100 million individuals representing over 40 million households do not use broadband because they cannot access it, cannot afford it, do not know how to use it, or are not aware of its benefits.

It is widely understood that there are significant costs to non-adopters, but economic analysis of these costs was not available before. We have attempted to quantify those costs—to those without computers and internet access themselves, as well as to those who are networked, the economy, and society as a whole.

The conclusion of our study is that, summing the conservative, low-end estimates of 11 categories of economic impact yields an aggregate estimate of the current costs of digital exclusion at over $55 billion per year.

Furthermore, over time, the costs of digital exclusion are likely to increase, as technological advances in key sectors enhance the efficiencies enjoyed by digitally included populations and therefore magnify the costliness of being excluded.

A recent report issued by the NTIA found that while “virtually all demographic groups have increased their adoption of broadband services at home over time . . . the data also reveal that demographic disparities among groups have persisted over time.” The NTIA report demonstrates that “persons with low incomes, seniors, minorities, the less-educated, non-family households, and the non-employed tend to lag behind other groups in home broadband use.”

In particular, the report found that only 46 percent of non-Hispanic Blacks and only 40 percent of Hispanics have access to broadband at home. Only 29 percent of families earning less than $15,000 a year have broadband access at home, a rate that improves only modestly to 35 percent for families earning between $15,000 and $25,000 annually. Older Americans also lag significantly in adopting broadband service, with only 46 percent of those over the age of 55 using broadband at home. In total, 36 percent of all US households still lack broadband access.

The persistent lack of broadband access for many Americans is costly for individuals, families, communities and the nation. Many aspects of day-to-day life, including work, shopping, education, accessing medical care and entertainment now require broadband access, and large segments of the populations are simply cut off from taking advantage of the resulting efficiencies.

Today the lack of broadband access results in increased costs for a wide variety of reasons. From the perspective of individuals and families, lack of broadband access:

1. Limits access to goods and services, resulting in higher costs for households;
2. Reduces access to education and inhibits learning among children;
3. Increases job search costs, which lowers both earnings and the chance of finding a job;
4. Reduces access to health information; and
5. Increases the costs associated with household financial management.

Beyond the impact on individuals, Governmental entities incur higher costs in communicating with populations without broadband access since communications and transactions must occur via paper, mail, telephone or face-to-face contact. Digital exclusion also increases the cost of civic engagement, which reduces participation in the political process.

The lack of broadband access also constrains local, regional, and national economic performance. Communities with limited broadband penetration rates have less productive households and bear higher costs in providing public services, placing them at a competitive disadvantage. At the national level, lack of broadband access lowers national production and wealth for at least five reasons:

1. Higher job search costs lower the number of people fully employed;
2. Higher job search costs result in sub-optimal job matching and lower earnings;
3. Higher costs to employers seeking access to the labor market will limit employment;
4. Lower educational attainment will lower production compared to what could be obtained; and
5. Higher costs for private businesses providing financial, real estate and other services, with large segments cut off from these services entirely.

On the positive side, remedying digital exclusion will yield:

1. Personal Gains. Digital access results in individuals and groups directly gaining new economic, social and educational resources.

2. Reduction in Opportunity Costs. A particular form of direct gain to individuals and groups comes from reductions in opportunity costs. An activity made more efficient by online access is usually still available to those who are not online, but in vastly inferior forms: an entrepreneur who can access the Internet only from the local library when researching market opportunities, a resident who must wait in line to renew his or her driver’s license,, and a shopper who must settle for a more limited selection of goods.

3. Positive Externalities. The term “externalities” describes a situation in which the full costs or benefits of an action are not borne by those taking the action. Universal broadband access would result in many positive externalities: new connectivity helps educate people, connects them more efficiently to employment opportunities and business information, and provides avenues to organize themselves around civic issues and to hold their governments accountable.

4. Positive Network Effects. A particular type of externality is known as “network effects.” Metcalfe’s Law states that the value of a telecommunications network is proportional to the square of the number of connected users of the system. Thus when a person is added to the network, all network members are positively affected. An important enhancement to personal and commercial wellbeing that is provided by the Internet is the ability to easily and efficiently connect to a broader network of users. Remedying digital exclusion adds to that network of users, with important implications for fields such as health care, disaster and emergency response, energy management, and transportation.

Prior research on Digital Impact Group (DIG) has demonstrated that comprehensive interventions can be highly successful in bringing vulnerable populations online, with impact on families in the areas of education, employment, health, and more.

As a result of this study, we now know that investing in such programs will have major economic impact on families, communities, government, commerce and the nation as a whole.

Economic Impact Category Estimate of Current Annual Costs of Digital Exclusion (Intersection with FCC National Broadband Plan Priorities)
Health Educa­tion Econ­omic Oppor­tunity Energy Govern­ment / Civic Engage­ment Public Safety
Health Care $15B X X
Education $4B X X
Economic Opportunity $15B X
Civic Engagement Too Diffuse to Quantify But Very Significant X
E-Government $2B X
Energy $100M X X
Transportation $100M X X
Public Safety and Emergency Response $4B X X
Personal Financial Management $2.5B X
Consumer Benefits $5B X
Personal Communications and Entertainment $7.5B X X
Total $55.2B

Reflections on ‘Sustainable Adoption’ for Round 2 of Broadband Stimulus

in Broadband Stimulus/Expert Opinion/Universal Service by

By Don S. Samuelson and Andrew Lowenstein

LAKE FOREST, Ill., January 11, 2010 – Last July when the Round 1 of Broadband Technologies Opportunity Program was announced, Don Samuelson suggested that public housing authorities across the country ought to be applying to BTOP for financial assistance to promote the use of the Internet by their senior residents:

Every public housing authority in the United States should apply for stimulus funding from the National Telecommunications and Information Agency to set up a program to promote the benefits and use of the Internet for its senior housing residents. The goal should be to make the case for the practical benefits of broadband and the Internet sufficiently compelling so that seniors would want a computer and Internet connection in their individual units. The use of the Internet should be as valuable as a TV or a phone. This is a “value proposition” that remains to be made.

It appears that no one followed the suggestion. There were no sustainable adoption proposals in the first round of BTOP for senior housing. We’ve since updated our analysis and refined our thinking.

The Missing Definitions of “Adoption” and “Sustainable Adoption.”

While “Sustainable Adoption” is one of the three categories of grant assistance contemplated by BTOP, there is no explicit definition of “sustainable adoption,” or even “adoption” in the Round 1 Notice of Funds Availability or the Sustainable Adoption Application materials.

Mr. Samuelson commented on this omission in his response to the NTIA request for comments in November of 2009:

“It is critical that the criteria to be used in evaluating sustainable adoption be clearly set out in the submissions section and in the section dealing with the evaluation criteria. For example, what does it require in terms of broadband and Internet literacy and use to say that an “adoption” has occurred? What must be shown to demonstrate that an adoption has become sustainable or is scalable?”

Two of the statutory purposes of BTOP are: (1) to provide broadband education, awareness, training, access, equipment and support to vulnerable populations (e.g. residents of public housing); and (2) to stimulate demand for broadband.

The Round 1 Sustainable Adoption Application Provides Hints of the Definition.

There are clear “hints” of what BTOP policy makers are looking for in the Round 1 Sustainable Broadband Adoption Application. In Section #7, the Executive Summary, a statement is requested of the “problem” related to improving broadband service adoption rates. It also requests an explanation of the potential broadband subscribers your project will reach. The emphasis is on increasing the number of subscribers.

In Section #8, Project Purpose, the emphasis is on increasing broadband access in unserved and underserved areas, and providing “education, awareness, training, access, equipment and support to … vulnerable populations.” The statements can best be read as complimentary.

In Section #13, the questions is asked: “How many total new home subscribers (household accounts) to broadband do you expect to generate through the used of BTOP funds over the life of the program funded?” In Sections #17 and #18, the questions relate to the extent of training programs and the numerical reach of the training. Sections #24, #25 and #26 relate to the targets of the awareness campaign, the methods for increasing awareness [of the benefits of broadband and the Internet] and the numerical results of the awareness campaign.

The sustainable broadband adoption application also asks for program explanations and strategies with respect to access, devices, awareness raising and training. However, the bottom line appears to occur in Section #27 when the applicant is asked: “What is the total cost of your project per new subscriber (household, individual or institutional) or new end-user?” Therefore, it can be inferred that “adoption” equates to becoming a new subscriber, but the definition of “sustainable” remains unclear.

The Chicken Crossing the Road (Digital Divide) Metaphor.

The answer to the question – why did the chicken cross the road – is that the chicken saw sufficient value on the other side of the road to take the trouble and assume the risk of crossing the road. The analysis of why vulnerable populations adopt and sustain broadband/internet usage involves similar calculations. Prospective users have to see that there are important and practical benefits available through the Internet worth the time, effort and cost of getting online and using the Internet.

For example, for seniors – the largest underserved segment by age according to a 2009 study by the Pew Internet & American Life Project – need to see practical values resulting from their use of the Internet in one or several of the following areas: (1) staying connected to children and grandchildren; (2) keeping in touch with neighbors and friends; (3) getting free e-mail services; (4) researching interests through web-accessing search engines; (5) accessing information on health care; (6) keeping current on Medicare, Medicaid and prescription drugs; (7) using government financial support programs; (8) accessing online entertainment and education programs; (9) keeping connected to churches, hobbies and other social networks; and (10) using tools for budgeting, banking and bill paying.

These broadband and internet applications will continue to grow over time. Once a person joins the “online community” they will continue to learn of new and exciting opportunities available over the Internet which will evolve over time. The “senior chicken” will be increasingly grateful that it is on the online side of the digital divide.

Is Crossing The Digital Divide “Sustainable Broadband Adoption”?

After a comprehensive intervention strategy which the authors will discuss in a subsequent article,. the senior will have to be shown the benefits of the Internet. Basic computer skills will have been taught first time users. The senior will have learned how to use the Internet and will have an e-mail or messaging account to connect with others.

Is this the end point that the BTOP application has in mind when it is funding sustainable broadband adoption proposals? Is it enough to know how to perform a Google search or subscribe to a free e-mail account? Does it qualify to use the computers and the Internet connectivity in the building’s computer learning center or in a local library? One could become an active user of the Internet without having a personal computer or an individual connection to the Internet. Is that sustainable broadband adoption?

We believe there is a difference between getting off line individuals “online” and crossing the digital divide and achieving a sustainable broadband adoption objective. In achieving sustainable adoption, the individual – with or without government subsidy programs like the Universal Service Fund – has to find sufficient value in the service to be willing to pay for the service.

The service has to be sufficiently valuable to warrant an initial subscription and the costs of a device and training. More importantly, to achieve “sustainability,” the value of broadband services has to be remain sufficiently valuable to justify the ongoing costs of connectivity, equipment and content.

Returning to the Issue of “Sustainable Broadband Adoption”

It’s clear from the Sustainable Broadband Adoption application that BTOP has an interest in promoting increases in broadband service adoption rates and in generating new subscribers. The awareness of benefits, an e-mail address and active Internet use are all important milestones in coming to the conclusion that broadband and the Internet are essential tools in a 21st Century life and in the active participation in government programs and in the networks that make up community life.

As with the origins of Universal Service in the 30s, there is a public interest in maximum broadband participation. There appears to be significant legislative interest at this time in extending the application of the LinkUp and Lifeline telephone subsidies to broadband services.

The milestone points are likely “necessary” but not “sufficient” parts of the process of achieving “sustainable broadband adoption.” It is useful to identify these way-stations on the path to sustainable adoption, measure achievement in reaching these milestones and give credit to proposals which are effective in creating a meaningful “pipeline” of individuals on their way to sustainable adoption.

But ultimately, the acid test should be the number of individuals who have concluded that broadband is sufficiently important to their lives to invest in connectivity and a device whereby they are “subscribers” to broadband.

For senior living communities, once successful adoption programs bring broadband to seniors in their apartments, the buildings can enjoy cost savings and improved operating efficiencies. First, in order to embrace adoption programs, both owners of senior buildings and residents need to appreciate how Internet benefits are meaningful to them. Building owners need to see cost savings sufficient to justify capital investments. Seniors need to experience benefits to warrant the cost of a broadband subscription. These benefits become “sustainable” once continuous and growing benefits exceed costs and owners of senior buildings and seniors themselves pay for the cost of broadband services.

Editor’s Note: The preceeding guest commentary appears by special invitation of Broadband Census News. Neither nor endorse the views in the commentary. We invite officials, experts and individuals interested in the state of broadband to offer commentaries of their own. To offer a commentary, please e-mail Not all commentaries may be published.

Don S. Samuelson of DSSA Stratategies has more than 30 years of experience in government-assisted housing and real estate development. Andrew Lowenstein is with MyWay Village, Inc. Samuelson has a passion for applying broadband to provide solutions in the fields of education and training. E-mail him at, or contact him by phone at 847-420-1732.

Memphis Citizens Embrace Broadband as They Question Government Involvement

in FCC Workshops/National Broadband Plan/Net Neutrality by

December 15, 2009 – The value of universal access to broadband was discussed at an occasionally tense Federal Communications Commission field hearing in Memphis on Monday night. The hearing was intended to focus on whether broadband services are being deployed in a way that allows all Americans to benefit, though it also addressed why internet access is necessary.

“I believe that universal access to broadband needs to be seen as a civil right,” said FCC commissioner Mignon Clyburn. “I don’t think you can look at it in any other way.”

“We’re here tonight because broadband access and broadband adoption are essential to full civic participation in our society,” said civil rights leader and former FCC commissioner Benjamin L. Hooks. For example, most jobs now require online applications, forcing potential employees to possess at least nominal digital literacy in order to apply.

So are citizens enjoying the benefits of broadband adoption? Not in Tennessee, several panelists said.

Despite broadband’s stated availability to 90 percent of Tennessee citizens, only 55 percent have adopted broadband. What accounts for this great disparity?

“Available is not synonymous with affordable,” said Tim Marema, vice president of the Center for Rural Strategies. He cited affordability as a major hindrance to adoption.

Marema recently asked kids at a Tennessee school if they used social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter. Almost every hand shot into the air.

When asked how many had a computer at home, however, only a few hands were raised. Marema added that in households making less than $25,000 annually, 34 percent cited cost as their main barrier to broadband adoption. In households earning more than $50,000 the number was only 5 percent.

Affordability and the perceived need for broadband are the two biggest factors in adoption said panelists. With the deadline for the national broadband plan just 60 days away, the question is: what needs to be done to overcome these barriers?

For some in attendance in Memphis, however, the question was: should anything be done at all?

During the open question and answer portion, several citizens expressed concern that government involvement would just be another case of meddling destined to derail free-market economics.

“It is not our effort or desire to stifle anything as it relates to these emerging technologies,” responded Commissioner Clyburn.

These general concerns were more explicitly expressed on the topic of net neutrality. Wouldn’t intervention or regulation by the government discourage investment by major providers who could lose out?

“What we have to be careful of is that it stays open and free and dynamic and that it is not controlled,” agreed FCC Commissioner Michael J. Copps. “Nobody is going to tell you where to go and how to get there and that’s the beauty of the thing.”

“[However,] you have to let companies do something called reasonable network management,” Copps said.

Beside these concerns, several citizens wanted to know what they could do to facilitate the adoption process.

“You make sure your public servants, your elected officials know how important this issue is to you,” said Copps.

ALA Says Public Libraries Are One Key Solution to Broadband Adoption

in Broadband Updates/Broadband's Impact/National Broadband Plan by

The American Library Association on Wednesday submitted comments (PDF) to the Federal Communications Commission addressing broadband adoption. The ALA filed the comments in response to the FCC’s call for input about adoption as it relates to the National Broadband Plan.

The comments seek to address concerns about measuring broadband adoption, the societal cost of non-adopters, and identifying and remedying barriers to adoption.

The ALA focused on the role that public libraries can play, not only improving access to broadband, but increasing digital literacy and breaking down those barriers to adoption. Libraries have a long history of tailoring their services to meet the needs of patrons and helping citizens participate in a digital world simply follows that pattern, the ALA said.

“Access to broadband alone does not constitute adoption. There are three factors that must be present to ensure adoption:

  1. ease of use,
  2. individual comfort with technology, and
  3. an ability to find, utilize, and, increasingly, create relevant content.

The implicit goal of the national broadband plan is not to have the infrastructure in place to provide access to the Internet, but rather to ensure that every individual can benefit from the resources made available by that infrastructure.”

Public libraries could play a unique role in the achievement of that goal, said the ALA.

“Public libraries offer formal, no-fee technology training and point-of-need assistance to anyone who comes into the library,” says Marijke Visser, information technology policy analyst for ALA’s Office for Technology Policy (OITP).

“As more critical resources, such as job applications and government services, are available primarily online, the societal cost of not being able to access these resources increases dramatically. We encourage the FCC to consider the support and teaching libraries provide. It is critical that the FCC includes libraries in the national broadband plan in order to ensure that libraries have high-capacity broadband necessary to provide these services.”

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