Connect with us

Expert Opinion

What Drives Broadband Adoption? An Aspen Institute Working Paper

WASHINGTON, December 5 – This report, authored by BroadbandCensus.com Editor Drew Clark for the Aspen Institute’s Communications and Society Program in August 2007, asks and attempts to answer a series of questions about broadband adoption.

Published

on

Reports

Drew Clark, Editor, BroadbandCensus.com

Editor’s Note:This working paper was originally written for the Aspen Institute’s Communications and Society Program’s August 2007 forum in Aspen, Colorado, in which the author participated. At the time, the author was Senior Fellow and Project Manager at the Center for Public Integrity. The paper was included in “A Framework for a National Broadband Policy” (PDF). Republished with permission of the Aspen Institute.

What do broadband users want? The ability to connect online through some form of access, obviously. Service that doesn’t cost a fortune, clearly. Fundamentally and personally, however, what do broadband users want by going online? Why do 47 percent of adult Americans subscribe to broadband? Conversely, why do a little more than half not subscribe? Why do subscribers keep paying their monthly bills? In considering a framework for a national broadband policy, what can we learn from considering broadband adoption trends, both quantitatively and qualitatively?

In this paper, two specific questions about broadband adoption are addressed. Both are framed in the context of also considering the availability of broadband access and the affordability of available choices; those topics are explored in other papers. For this paper, consider:
• What other factors, such as equipment subsidies and consumer education, are necessary for encouraging adoption?
• What applications—such as telemedicine, e-government, or online education—are likely to increase demand for highspeed broadband access?

Both questions are viewed from the lens of the individual broadband user to determine why individuals subscribe, or fail to subscribe, to broadband. In the first section, some of the quantitative and qualitative research about broadband adoption are surveyed. In the second section, I offer my own set of questions and personal answers about the combination of applications, education, experience, and other motivations that lead an individual to subscribe. The next section offers tentative conclusions about the broadband applications on the “supply side.” And, the fourth and final section, offers tentative conclusions about some aspects of directed “education” and “subsidies” that could potentially stimulate demand.

What Do Researchers Say about Who Subscribes to Broadband?

Research on broadband adoption shows that Americans are adopting broadband. Put aside, for the moment, the debate about whether the United States is adopting broadband as fast as other developed nations— or developing nations. The Pew Internet and American Life Project’s annual and semiannual surveys about broadband adoption show a consistent pattern of increase. Figure 1, from the June 2007 Home Broadband Adoption report, by John Horrigan, Associate Director for Research, and Aaron Smith, Research Specialist, shows the breakdown of broadband adoption across various demographic categories.

Figure 1: Trends in Broadband Adoption Across Population Subgroups (see PDF above for figures and tables)

Pew’s 2005 report argued that broadband adoption at home in the U.S. was “growing but slowing.” The 2005 report created the following model of broadband adoption:

• People do more things online the longer they’ve been online.
• Dial-up users are more likely to want broadband the longer they’ve been online.
• Not everyone wants broadband—and the people who do not want broadband typically have less online experience and are processing fewer bits.
• High-speed users switch to broadband to processmore bits, less so because of price.

Under this model, the decision to get broadband depends on the “intensity of Internet use,” which in turn is a function of time online and connection speed.69 Considering this model, Horrigan concluded in 2005 that although “years of online experience” may have driven broadband adoption in 2002, early in the growth phase, that was no longer the case in 2005.

On the one hand, this is not too surprising—early adopters, the “low hanging fruit,” have been picked. But it is important to recognize that there could be very different migratory patterns toward broadband. Internet use, rather than tapering off in recent years, could have continued its late ’90’s-early 00’s upward climb. Broadband prices could have been on the decline or network speeds might have improved substantially. That or other forces might have meant more switching from dial-up to high-speed and more adoption “de novo” of high-speed by new users.

Somewhat unexpectedly, the Pew 2006 report found home broadband adoption growing 40 percent from March 2005 to March 2006— twice the growth rate of the preceding year. Horrigan writes, “A significant part of the increase is tied to Internet newcomers who have bypassed dial-up connections and gone straight to high-speed connections. This is a striking change from the previous pattern of broadband adoption.” Among the factors, many of them new for that year, Horrigan identified:

• There was strong growth in broadband adoption by African Americans and by people with low levels of education.
• Digital subscriber line (DSL) market share increased, driven by aggressive price-cutting by DSL providers.
• About 48 million Internet users were posting online content, the majority of whom are home broadband users.
• Awareness about Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) increased 86 percent between February 2004 and December 2005.

Jump forward one more year, to the June 2007 report, and the adoption growth rate is down again. Figure 2 is Pew’s chart of year-to-year growth grates in home broadband adoption.

Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and Pew data from 2003 to 2007 show similar trends year-to-year growth grates in home broadband adoption. The number of “high-speed lines” (200 kbps in either direction) grew 32 percent, from 32.5 million on June 30, 2004, to 42.9 million on June 30, 2005. The number of such lines grew 52 percent, to 64.6 million, by June 30, 2006.

Figure 2:Year-to-year growth rates in home broadband adoption

Of those 64.6million lines (themost recent total fromthe FCC), 50.3 million served primarily residential end users. Of those residential broadband connections, the FCC reported that 55.2 percent of subscriptions were cable modem connections, 40.1 percent were asymmetric DSL connections, 0.2 percent were symmetric DSL or traditional wireline connections, 0.9 percent were fiber connections, and 3.7 percent were other types of technologies, including satellite, terrestrial fixed or mobile wireless (licensed or unlicensed), and electric power lines. The FCC says that broadband is available via DSL to 79 percent of local telephone company subscribers and via cable modem to 93 percent of cable television subscribers.

It is increasingly clear that there are two major groups of people who have not yet subscribed to broadband: dial-up users and non-Internet users.Dial-up usersmay be “happy dial-up users” because they get what they want out of their slower Internet experience. Alternatively, they may be frustrated dial-up users because of price or, more likely, availability constraints on broadband.

Non-Internet users have rejected the Internet experience, for whatever reason. Occasionally, as is evident in the spike of broadband adoption from March 2005 to March 2006, they can be lured directly to broadband subscriber status. Many, however, simply wish to avoid aspects of the Internet, such as pornography and the threat of various forms of identity theft.

Pew also has survey results on some of the reasons that individuals choose to take broadband, based on three separate surveys—January 2002, February 2004, and December 2005 (Table 1).

Table 1: Reasons for choosing high-speed Internet connection at home

The leading response to the survey: “Faster access/Greater speed” in January 2002 and December 2005 and “Previous connection was too slow/frustrating” in February 2004. The latter response may be effectively identical to the former. Indeed, at the spring 2007 meeting of the Aspen Institute Roundtable on Spectrum Policy, Andrew McLaughlin of Google gave a great definition of broadband: when a user isn’t constantly frustrated with the Internet experience.

If the goal is to get more people to subscribe to broadband, exclusive of considerations of availability and price, then happy dial-up users and non-Internet users are key groups to be targeted.

What Do Individuals Say aboutWhy They Subscribe to Broadband?

Understanding the demographics of broadband subscription begins to put some substance behind our key inquiry: How can individuals be motivated to subscribe to broadband?

The following model may be useful for thinking about this question:

1. Think of yourself: When did you subscribe to broadband in your home, and what led you to subscribe?
2. Think of other Americans, particularly the “happy dial-up users” and the “Internet rejecters.” How would a pitch to subscribe to broadband be targeted at them?
3. Think about individuals facing the prospect of adopting broadband in other parts of the world, such as China. It may be more exciting to consider a “fresher” market than the United States, with its more mature stage of broadband adoption.

Some questions to ask include:

• How long did you use the Internet before subscribing to broadband at home?
• How frequently did you experience the broadband Internet (i.e., at university, in the workplace) before subscribing at home?
• What companies were offering service to your home, what type of service were they offering, and at what price?
• What applications tipped the balance in favor of your subscribing to broadband at home?
• Were any other factors involved in your decision to subscribe to broadband at home?

Here are my own answers:

• I used a primitive form of Internet access, via an America Online dial-up connection, through a creaky Apple MacIntosh in February 1995. I first saw the high-speed Internet at Columbia University in August 1995. I finally subscribed to broadband on March 14, 2004—making nine years of Internet use before subscribing to broadband.
• I used broadband constantly at school, and then at work, in the years since 1995. My extensive use of broadband and work probably was a major factor in delaying my personal broadband adoption.
• I did not inquire about broadband availability in the homes and apartments I moved into in 1996 and 1997.When I moved to a home in 1999, I didmake an inquiry about DSL broadband availability (it was available), but I did not subscribe. When I decided to subscribe, I tried DSL, but the service did not work; I then subscribed to cablemodemservice. (I believe the price of DSL was $40,when included with traditional phone service; the price of cable modem service was $40, when included with basic cable television.)
• Saving money by subscribing to Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) service was the primary deciding factor in my decision to subscribe to broadband. I cancelled local telephone service and Internet service. A second motivating factor was the ability to get basic cable television programming—that is, assembling an ad-hoc “bundle.”
• A final factor motivating adoption was simple embarrassment: How could I be a decent technology journalist and not subscribe to broadband at home?

My responses offer one personal window on broadband adoption. I have asked the same questions of friends, neighbors, colleagues, and sources. I’d like to see and participate in ways to publish more of these responses. This kind of qualitative, even anecdote-driven, research also is instrumental in helping us better understand broadband deployment. Indeed, when I interviewed John Horrigan about this subject, I asked the same questions of him. He told me that he made the transition from dial-up to broadband in 2003 and that one of the factors influencing the decision was that his employer agreed to pay for a home broadband subscription. Cisco Systems is another company that pays the home broadband subscription costs as an employee benefit.

Broadband Applications on the “Supply Side”

Although speed frequently is identified as the reason for broadband subscription, my personal experience suggests that usually some particular application (or combination of applications) causes an individual to reach the tipping point. In my case, it was VoIP. Almost immediately thereafter, I installed a WiFi router, enabling broadband access anywhere in the house. That technology, in turn, facilitates a host of additional applications, any one of which could be the tipping point for others to subscribe to broadband.

Other heavily used high-bandwidth broadband applications in the Clark home include the following:

• Google Earth (Three-year-olds and seven-year-olds love it!)
• Educational videos and games
• Blogging
• Smugmug photo-sharing
• Video and audio streaming, including Internet radio
• Google Calendar for sharing schedules
• “Presence,” in the formof G-mail/instantmessage integration, etc.
• Online classes.

An application such as VoIP can prove successful in motivating a broadband purchase because it takes broadband off the desktop/laptop and into another device—such as a telephone—that is frequently used. I have been disappointed that equipment manufacturers and webcasters have not taken better advantage of opportunities to embed Internet radio applications into dedicated, IP-centric devices. Of course, the TV-PC convergence remains, after all these years, very much a work in progress. When I was watching an important cablecast that began to experience technical difficulties, I fired up my laptop and watched the webcast version of the program. Viewing on the larger TV screen was not possible, however.

In addition to IP-centric capabilities taking over telephones, radios, and televisions, such capabilities integrated into refrigerators, freestanding Webcams (whether for security or other purposes), or other household devices may reach those “happy dial-up users” and even some Internet rejecters. It is better to think about such applications in specific rather than general terms. In other words, diabetes patients or prospective diabetes patients may be motivated to subscribe to broadband to participate in a specific experimental trial but not to take advantage of “telemedicine” in general. The ability to enroll in a specific class may motivate a broadband purchase. The ability to do a job from home and avoid a commute is likely to be another key motivator in nudging broadband subscriptions upward.

Educating and Subsidizing for Broadband Demand

What forms of subsidization and education are necessary to stimulate demand for broadband? In the case of subsidization, consider various potential subsidizers: governments, employers, access providers, educators, and advertisers.

Subsidization of Internet services by the government or a business partner interested in advertising is central to many municipal wireless build-outs, including services to be offered by Earthlink in Philadelphia. In San Francisco, Google will subsidize a slower, ad-sponsored version of the wireless service. Other nationwide proposals, including that of M2Z Networks, contemplate free nationwide wireless Internet access through a 20 megahertz block of radio frequencies. As discussed above, employers play an important role—possibly a crucial role—in subsidizing their employees’ broadband use to facilitate work from home. According to a study by RVA Market Research for the Fiber to the Home Council, 13 percent of home fiber optic users work from home more often—a monthly average of 7.3 more workdays at home instead of the office. In most of these cases, having a fiber-optic connectionmade their employers’ attitude toward teleworkmore favorable.

Nevertheless, most discussions about subsidization deal with the Universal Service Fund’s (USF) system of cross-subsidization to broadband services offered by carriers, not subsidization of services or goods purchased by a consumer.

Equipment subsidies have received even less discussion. Here the question must be:What device to subsidize? Among the choices are the following:

• WiFi or other wireless-enabled laptops
• WiFi routers
• Wireless access devices (for non-WiFi fixed wireless services, such as a satellite dish in a rural area)
• Other standalone health- or home security-related IP devices.

Ironically, Congress has not chosen to subsidize any IP device at all. Instead, it has chosen to offer a $40 subsidy for a converter box that allows an analog device to receive digital television broadcasts. Aside from television, subsidies for equipment seem like a stretch for the government and for employers, for the simple reasons that prices are always dropping and government always seems to have more pressing priorities for its funds. Finally, worth noting is the fact that access providers routinely subsidize equipment (e.g., cable modems and wireless access devices) as part of a package of paid Internet service.

A final point for consideration is what kind of education consumers need to understand their broadband options. “Education” can include basics such as computer and Internet literacy. In most cases, this basic education is a prerequisite for home broadband use. Education also can include broader information about the true availability of broadband services in one’s area—as well as information about actual offers of service. The Center for Public Integrity’s Well Connected Project is engaged in one aspect of this effort: seeking to publicly display the names of each company that provides broadband within a particular ZIP code. If this effort is successful, it could enable consumers to see a complete list of all companies that offer broadband within their geographic area. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) also intends to monitor the information that telecommunications and cable companies provide about high-speed Internet service in the service plans they offer to customers.

Broadband Breakfast Club:

Editor’s Note: Join the next Broadband Breakfast Club on Tuesday, December 9, 2008, on how broadband applications – including telemedicine – can harness demand for high-speed internet services. Register at http://broadbandbreakfast.eventbrite.com

Breakfast Media LLC CEO Drew Clark has led the Broadband Breakfast community since 2008. An early proponent of better broadband, better lives, he initially founded the Broadband Census crowdsourcing campaign for broadband data. As Editor and Publisher, Clark presides over the leading media company advocating for higher-capacity internet everywhere through topical, timely and intelligent coverage. Clark also served as head of the Partnership for a Connected Illinois, a state broadband initiative.

Asia

Dae-Keun Cho: Demystifying Interconnection and Cost Recovery in South Korea

South Korean courts have rejected attempts to mix net neutrality arguments into payment disputes.

Published

on

The author of this Expert Opinion is Advisor in Dae-Keun Cho, a member of the telecom, media and technology practice team at Lee & Ko.

South Korea is recognized as a leading broadband nation for network access, use and skills by the International Telecommunications Union and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.

South Korea exports content and produces platforms which compete with leading tech platforms from the US and China. Yet few know and understand the important elements of South Korean broadband policy, particularly its unique interconnection and cost recovery regime.

For example, most Western observers mischaracterize the relationship between broadband providers and content providers as a termination regime. There is no such concept in the South Korean broadband market. Content providers which want to connect to a broadband network pay an “access fee” like any other user.

International policy observers are paying attention to the IP interconnection system of IP powerhouse Korea and the lawsuit between SK Broadband (SKB) and Netflix. There are two important subjects. The first is the history and major regulations relating to internet protocol interconnection in South Korea. Regulating IP interconnection between internet service providers is considered a rare case overseas, and I explain why the Korean government adopted such a policy and how the policy has been developed and what it has accomplished.

The second subject is the issues over network usage fees between ISPs and content providers and the pros and cons. The author discusses issues that came to the surface during the legal proceedings between SKB and Netflix in the form of questions and answers. The following issues were identified during the process.

First, what Korean ISPs demand from global big tech companies is an access fee, not a termination fee. The termination fee does not exist in the broadband market, only in the market between ISPs.

In South Korea, content providers only pay for access, not termination

For example, Netflix’s Open Connect Appliance is a content delivery network. To deliver its content to end users in Korea, Netflix must purchase connectivity from a Korean ISP. The dispute arises because Netflix refuses to pay this connectivity fee. Charging CPs in the sending party network pay method, as discussed in Europe, suggests that the CPs already paid access fees to the originating ISPs and should thus pay the termination fee for their traffic delivery to the terminating ISPs. However in Korea, it is only access fees that CPs (also CDNs) pay ISPs.

In South Korea, IP interconnection between content providers and internet service providers is subject to negotiation

Second, although the IP interconnection between Korean ISPs is included in regulations, transactions between CPs and ISPs are still subject to negotiation. In Korea, a CP (including CDN) is a purchaser which pays a fee to a telecommunications service provider called an ISP and purchases a public internet network connection service, because the CP’s legal status is a “user” under the Telecommunications Business Act. Currently, a CP negotiates with an ISP and signs a contract setting out connection conditions and rates.

Access fees do not violate net neutrality

South Korean courts have rejected attempts to mix net neutrality arguments into payment disputes. The principle of net neutrality applies between the ISP and the consumer, e.g. the practice of blocking, throttling and paid prioritization (fast lane).

In South Korea, ISPs do not prioritize a specific CP’s traffic over other CP’s because they receive fees from the specific CP. To comply with the net neutrality principle, all ISPs in South Korea act on a first-in, first-out basis. That is, the ISP does not perform traffic management for specific CP traffic for various reasons (such as competition, money etc.). The Korean court did not accept the Netflix’s argument about net neutrality because SKB did not engage in traffic management.

There is no violation of net neutrality in the transaction between Netflix and SKB. There is no action by SKB to block or throttle the CP’s traffic (in this case, Netflix). In addition, SKB does not undertake any traffic management action to deliver the traffic of Netflix to the end user faster than other CPs in exchange for an additional fee from Netflix.

Therefore, the access fee that Korean ISPs request from CPs does not create a net neutrality problem.

Why the Korean model is not double billing

Korean law allows for access to broadband networks for all parties provided an access fee is paid. Foreign content providers incorrectly describe this as a double payment. That would mean that an end user is paying for the access of another party. There is no such notion. Each party pays for the requisite connectivity of the individual connection, nothing more. Each user pays for its own purpose, whether it is a human subscriber, a CP, or a CDN. No one user pays for the connectivity of another.

Dae-Keun Cho, PhD is is a member of the Telecom, Media and Technology practice team at Lee & Ko. He is a regulatory policy expert with more than 20 years of experience in telecommunications and ICT regulatory policies who also advises clients on online platform regulation policies, telecommunications competition policies, ICT user protection policies, and personal information protection. He earned a Ph.D. in Public Administration from the Graduate School of Public Administration in Seoul National University. This piece is reprinted with permission.

Request the FREE 58 page English language summary of Dr. Dae-Keun Cho’s book Nothing Is Free: An In-depth report to understand network usage disputes with Google and Netflix. Additionally see Strand Consult’s library of reports and research notes on the South Korea.

Broadband Breakfast accepts commentary from informed observers of the broadband scene. Please send pieces to commentary@breakfast.media. The views reflected in Expert Opinion pieces do not necessarily reflect the views of Broadband Breakfast and Breakfast Media LLC.

Continue Reading

Expert Opinion

Luke Lintz: The Dark Side of Banning TikTok on College Campuses

Campus TikTok bans could have negative consequences for students.

Published

on

The author of this expert opinion is Luke Lintz, co-owner of HighKey Enterprises LLC

In recent months, there have been growing concerns about the security of data shared on the popular social media app TikTok. As a result, a number of colleges and universities have decided to ban the app from their campuses.

While these bans may have been implemented with the intention of protecting students’ data, they could also have a number of negative consequences.

Banning TikTok on college campuses could also have a negative impact on the inter-accessibility of the student body. Many students use the app to connect with others who share their interests or come from similar backgrounds. For example, international students may use the app to connect with other students from their home countries, or students from underrepresented groups may use the app to connect with others who share similar experiences.

By denying them access to TikTok, colleges may be inadvertently limiting their students’ ability to form diverse and supportive communities. This can have a detrimental effect on the student experience, as students may feel isolated and disconnected from their peers. Additionally, it can also have a negative impact on the wider college community, as the ban may make it more difficult for students from different backgrounds to come together and collaborate.

Furthermore, by banning TikTok, colleges may also be missing out on the opportunity to promote diverse events on their campuses. The app is often used by students to share information about events, clubs and other activities that promote diversity and inclusivity. Without this platform, it may be more difficult for students to learn about these initiatives and for organizations to reach a wide audience.

Lastly, it’s important to note that banning TikTok on college campuses could also have a negative impact on the ability of college administrators to communicate with students. Many colleges and universities have started to use TikTok as a way to connect with students and share important information and updates. The popularity of TikTok makes it the perfect app for students to use to reach large, campus-wide audiences.

TikTok also offers a unique way for college administrators to connect with students in a more informal and engaging way. TikTok allows administrators to create videos that are fun, creative and relatable, which can help to build trust and to heighten interaction with students. Without this platform, it may be more difficult for administrators to establish this type of connection with students.

Banning TikTok from college campuses could have a number of negative consequences for students, including limiting their ability to form diverse and supportive communities, missing out on future opportunities and staying informed about what’s happening on campus. College administrators should consider the potential consequences before making a decision about banning TikTok from their campuses.

Luke Lintz is a successful businessman, entrepreneur and social media personality. Today, he is the co-owner of HighKey Enterprises LLC, which aims to revolutionize social media marketing. HighKey Enterprises is a highly rated company that has molded its global reputation by servicing high-profile clients that range from A-listers in the entertainment industry to the most successful one percent across the globe. This piece is exclusive to Broadband Breakfast.

Broadband Breakfast accepts commentary from informed observers of the broadband scene. Please send pieces to commentary@breakfast.media. The views reflected in Expert Opinion pieces do not necessarily reflect the views of Broadband Breakfast and Breakfast Media LLC.

Continue Reading

Expert Opinion

Jessica Dine: Broadband Networks Are Doing Well, Time to Shift to Adoption Gap

There is a perennial policy debate over why the digital divide exists and what to do about it.

Published

on

The author of this Expert Opinion is Jessica Dine, a research assistant for broadband policy at the ITIF

It turns out there are two digital divides in America. The first one is the familiar divide between those who have Internet subscriptions and those who don’t. Everyone agrees this is a persistent concern, with about 10 percent of the public lacking subscriptions at last count. But then we come to the second divide: There is a perennial policy debate over why the digital divide exists and what to do about it.

This second digital divide is once again on full display around the latest edition of the biennial Communications Marketplace Report from the Federal Communications Commission. Those who think that broadband should fundamentally be in the hands of the government will no doubt claim it shows America’s private-sector broadband system is a failure; we are a backward nation with inadequate service offerings that are too expensive for consumers and too profitable for providers. The solution to this, advocates say, is to weaken corporate providers and strengthen non-corporate alternatives, including government-run networks.

But the empirical evidence belies their claims. An evenhanded look at broadband data show that U.S. broadband infrastructure is not the problem; it’s a lack of adoption that’s causing the digital divide to persist.

Comprehensive data reveal that almost everyone in the United States is passed by fixed broadband matching the FCC’s 25 Megabits per second (Mbps) download and 3 Mbps upload speed requirement. And the expansive coverage doesn’t end there — 94 percent of people are passed by networks at speeds of 100/10, and the majority of Americans have multiple providers at broadband speeds or higher. 4G wireless coverage is almost everywhere; 5G, still in its early stages, already covers the majority of the U.S. population at 93 percent and reaches competitively high speeds for most of the country. The first iteration of the long-awaited National Broadband Map confirms that deployment is strong. Modern broadband deployment in the United States outpaces coverage in the European Union and is competitive at the international level. And with the use of fixed-wireless and low-earth-orbit satellites continuing to grow, it’s only getting better.

As for prices, U.S. broadband has been shown to be relatively affordable. The ITU finds U.S. fixed broadband prices are just one percent of an average person’s income, proportionately lower than the prices charged in Japan and South Korea. While U.S. mobile prices are relatively higher in the rankings, they’re still significantly lower than one percent of the average income per person. Moreover, Americans are paying for high-speed, high-quality networks, as evidenced by the Ookla’s latest Speedtest Global Index, which put U.S. fixed network speeds in 6th place globally, above even digital frontrunners like South Korea and Denmark. By October 2022, U.S. fixed median download and upload speeds were each roughly seven times the FCC broadband benchmark.

Time to focus on what’s causing the digital divide to persist: Broadband adoption

But even though broadband deployment is already strong, the government has packaged billions of dollars for more to take place. It’s time to stop throwing money at deployment. It’s time to focus on what’s really causing the digital divide to persist, and that’s broadband adoption.

It’s one thing to have access to broadband service but another to “adopt” — to sign up for and purchase — that service. The United States has room for improvement when it comes to adoption. Ninety percent of households subscribe to some form of Internet connection — for context, that’s similar to broadband adoption in 10 EU countries according to Eurostat, and it’s nine percentage points behind the leader. Though U.S. adoption rates are not appallingly low, they still lag behind the country’s performance in deployment. In other words, a substantial percentage of Americans, given the opportunity to connect to the Internet, simply chooses not to.

While a simplistic policy solution would throw money at the problem to lower prices, that likely wouldn’t make a significant dent in the adoption rate. The U.S. Commerce Department’s Internet Use Survey finds, instead, that the main barrier to connectivity is a lack of interest, with 58 percent of respondents stating so. Meanwhile, price comes in distant second, with only 18 percent of respondents putting it down as their answer.

No matter how much money and effort policy makers put into closing the digital divide, they will never close it if they fail to target the true root cause. Pouring money into deployment under the misimpression that U.S. networks themselves are lacking or designing policies to regulate allegedly high U.S. prices and ramp up slow speeds — these are tactics that take scarce funds away from the more pressing challenge of adoption.

Jessica Dine is a research assistant for broadband policy at the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation. She has conducted research and written on closing the digital divide, the state of U.S. broadband, and how 5G can play a role in reducing environmental harm. She holds a B.A. in economics and philosophy from Grinnell College. This piece is exclusive to Broadband Breakfast.

Broadband Breakfast accepts commentary from informed observers of the broadband scene. Please send pieces to commentary@breakfast.media. The views reflected in Expert Opinion pieces do not necessarily reflect the views of Broadband Breakfast and Breakfast Media LLC.

Continue Reading

Signup for Broadband Breakfast

Twice-weekly Breakfast Media news alerts
* = required field

Broadband Breakfast Research Partner

Trending