January 13, 2015
In 2010, after a competitive procurement, NTIA awarded a contract to research firm ASR Analytics, LLC to conduct an independent analysis of the social and economic impacts of the $4 billion in Recovery Act grants awarded under the Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP). ASR performed an extensive analysis of the quarterly and annual reports from more than 200 grantees over a four-year period, and conducted 27 detailed case studies of individual BTOP projects. The case studies were based on site visits that included interviews, observations and data collection. The products of the study include a Final Report, two Interim Reports, the case study documents and a Short Term Economic impacts Report. The study methodology and datasets are also publicly available. For more information, email email@example.com.
I just ran across this much-touted report from ASR analytics. Does anyone have any feedback about it?
Editor’s Note – Here is the press release that NTIA put out about the core findings of the study:
Research Study Shows NTIA Broadband Grants Provided Billions in Economic Benefits
WASHINGTON – The U.S. Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) released a new independent research study  today showing that its broadband grants program resulted in billions of dollars in economic benefits to the communities served, including increased economic output and higher levels of employment.
The four-year study, prepared by the research firm ASR Analytics, examined the social and economic impacts of the $4 billion in Recovery Act grants awarded by NTIA to expand broadband access and adoption across the country through the Broadband Technology Opportunities Program  (BTOP). In communities where grantees built new broadband infrastructure, broadband availability grew by an estimated 2 percent more than in communities not served by a broadband grantee. That growth could be expected to translate into increased economic output of as much as $21 billion annually, the report concluded.
We’ve seen firsthand the transforming economic and societal impact that broadband has on communities across the country,” said Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Communications and Information and NTIA Administrator Lawrence E. Strickling. “The study released today captures only an early picture of the economic impact of our broadband grants. As more and more providers take advantage of Recovery Act-funded networks, we fully anticipate that the impact will be even greater.”
NTIA is at the forefront of federal efforts to ensure that all Americans share in the promise and potential of the digital economy. NTIA today also unveiled its Broadband USA  initiative aimed at finding new ways to assist communities seeking to build their broadband capacity to advance economic development.
NTIA contracted with ASR Analytics to provide an independent assessment  of the social and economic impacts of BTOP. ASR Analytics’ final report summarizes and synthesizes the findings of 42 separate case study reports, two interim reports, and a short-term economic impacts report. In conducting its review, ASR conducted 42 site visits with 27 different BTOP grantees between July 2011 and November 2013.
Key findings of ASR’s final report include:
- On average, in only two years, BTOP grant communities experienced an estimated 2 percent greater growth in broadband availability than non-grant communities, which is estimated to generate increased annual economic activity of between $5.17 billion and $21 billion.
- The additional broadband infrastructure provided by BTOP could be expected to create more than 22,000 long-term jobs and generate more than $1 billion in additional household income each year.
- Community anchor institutions, like schools and libraries, served by BTOP infrastructure grantees in the sample experienced significantly increased speeds and lower costs. As an example, the median price paid by libraries in the sample was $233 megabits-per-second (mbps)/month before BTOP, at a median speed of 3 mbps. As a result of the grant, the median price dropped to $15 mbps/month and median speed increased to 20 mbps.
Under the BTOP program, NTIA awarded 233 grants benefitting every state, as well as five territories and the District of Columbia, to build network infrastructure, establish public computer centers, and develop digital literacy training to expand broadband adoption.
To date, BTOP grantees have built or upgraded more than 113,000 miles of fiber and connected nearly 25,000 community anchor institutions. BTOP grantees also have established or upgraded 3,000 public computer centers, delivered more than four million training hours and helped roughly 735,000 households sign up for broadband.
NTIA, part of the U.S. Department of Commerce, is the Executive Branch agency that advises the President on telecommunications and information policy issues. NTIA’s programs and policy making focus largely on expanding broadband Internet access and adoption in America, expanding the use of spectrum by all users, and ensuring that the Internet remains an engine for continued innovation and economic growth.
Lack of Public Broadband Pricing Information a Cause of Digital Divide, Say Advocates
Panelists argued that lack of equitable digital access is deadly and driven by lack of competition.
September 24, 2021- Affordability, language and lack of competition are among the factors that continue to perpetuate the digital divide and related inequities, according to panelists at a Thursday event on race and broadband.
One of the panelists faulted the lack of public broadband pricing information as a root cause.
In poorer communities there’s “fewer ISPs. There’s less competition. There’s less investment in fiber,” said Herman Galperin, associate professor at the University of Southern California. “It is about income. It is about race, but what really matters is the combination of poverty and communities of color. That’s where we find the largest deficits of broadband infrastructure.”
While acknowledging that “there is an ongoing effort at the [Federal Communications Commission] to significantly improve the type of data and the granularity of the data that the ISPs will be required to report,” Galperin said that the lack of a push to make ISP pricing public will doom that effort to fail.
He also questioned why ISPs do not or are not required to report their maps of service coverage revealing areas of no or low service. “Affordability is perhaps the biggest factor in preventing low-income folks from connecting,” Galperin said.
“It’s plain bang for their buck,” said Traci Morris, executive director of the American Indian Policy Institute at Arizona State University, referring to broadband providers reluctance to serve rural and remote areas. “It costs more money to go to [tribal lands].”
Furthermore, the COVID-19 pandemic has only made that digital divide clearer and more deadly. “There was no access to information for telehealth,” said Morris. “No access to information on how the virus spread.”
Galperin also raised the impact of digital gaps in access upon homeless and low-income populations. As people come in and out of homelessness, they have trouble connecting to the internet at crucial times, because – for example – a library might be closed.
Low-income populations also have “systemic” digital access issues struggling at times with paying their bills having to shut their internet off for months at a time.
Another issue facing the digital divide is linguistic. Rebecca Kauma, economic and digital inclusion program manager for the city of Long Beach, California, said that residents often speak a language other than English. But ISPs may not offer interpretation services for them to be able to communicate in their language.
Funding, though not a quick fix-all, often brings about positive change in the right hands. Long Beach received more than $1 million from the U.S. CARES Act, passed in the wake of the early pandemic last year. “One of the programs that we designed was to administer free hotspots and computing devices to those that qualify,” she said.
Some “band-aid solutions” to “systemic problems” exist but aren’t receiving the attention or initiative they deserve, said Galperin. “What advocacy organizations are doing but we need a lot more effort is helping people sign up for existing low-cost offers.” The problem, he says, is that “ISPs are not particularly eager to promote” low-cost offers.
The event “Race and Digital Inequity: The Impact on Poor Communities of Color,” was hosted by the Michelson 20MM Foundation and its partners the California Community Foundation, Silicon Valley Community Foundation and Southern California Grantmakers.
USC, CETF Collaborate on Research for Broadband Affordability
Advisory panel includes leaders in broadband and a chief economist at the FCC.
WASHINGTON, September 22, 2021 – Researchers from the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School and the California Emerging Technology Fund is partnering to recommend strategies for bringing affordable broadband to all Americans.
In a press release on Tuesday, the university’s school of communications and journalism and the CETF will be guided by an expert advisory panel, “whose members include highly respected leaders in government, academia, foundations and non-profit and consumer-focused organizations.”
Members of the advisory panel include a chief economist at the Federal Communications Commission, digital inclusion experts, broadband advisors to governors, professors and deans, and other public interest organizations.
“With the federal government and states committing billions to broadband in the near term, there is a unique window of opportunity to connect millions of low-income Americans to the infrastructure they need to thrive in the 21st century,” Hernan Galperin, a professor at the school, said in the release.
“However, we need to make sure public funds are used effectively, and that subsidies are distributed in an equitable and sustainable manner,” he added. “This research program will contribute to achieve these goals by providing evidence-based recommendations about the most cost-effective ways to make these historic investments in broadband work for all.”
The CETF and USC have collaborated before on surveys about broadband adoption. In a series of said surveys recently, the organizations found disparities along income levels, as lower-income families reported lower levels of technology adoption, despite improvement over the course of the pandemic.
The surveys also showed that access to connected devices was growing, but racial minorities are still disproportionately impacted by the digital divide.
The collaboration comes before the House is expected to vote on a massive infrastructure package that includes $65 billion for broadband. Observers and experts have noted the package’s vision for flexibility, but some are concerned about the details of how that money will be spent going forward.
Technology Policy Institute Introduces Data Index to Help Identify Connectivity-Deprived Areas
The Broadband Connectivity Index uses multiple datasets to try to get a better understanding of well- and under-connected areas in the U.S.
WASHINGTON, September 16, 2021 – The Technology Policy Institute introduced Thursday a broadband data index that it said could help policymakers study areas across the country with inadequate connectivity.
The TPI said the Broadband Connectivity Index uses multiple broadband datasets to compare overall connectivity “objectively and consistently across any geographic areas.” It said it will be adding it soon into its TPI Broadband Map.
The BCI uses a “machine learning principal components analysis” to take into account the share of households that can access fixed speeds the federal standard of 25 Megabits per second download and 3 Mbps upload and 100/25 – which is calculated based on the Federal Communications Commission’s Form 477 data with the American Community Survey – while also using download speed data from Ookla, Microsoft data for share of households with 25/3, and the share of households with a broadband subscription, which comes from the American Community Survey.
The BCI has a range of zero to 10, where zero is the worst connected and 10 is the best. It found that Falls Church, Virginia was the county with the highest score with the following characteristic: 99 percent of households have access to at least 100/25, 100 percent of households connect to Microsoft services at 25/3, the average fixed download speed is 243 Mbps in Ookla in the second quarter of this year, and 94 percent of households have a fixed internet connection.
Meanwhile, the worst-connected county is Echols County in Georgia. None of the population has access to a fixed connection of 25/3, which doesn’t include satellite connectivity, three percent connect to Microsoft’s servers at 25/3, the average download speed is 7 Mbps, and only 47 percent of households have an internet connection. It notes that service providers won $3.6 million out of the $9.2-billion Rural Digital Opportunity Fund to provide service in this county.
“Policymakers could use this index to identify areas that require a closer look. Perhaps any county below, say, the fifth percentile, for example, would be places to spend effort trying to understand,” the TPI said.
“We don’t claim that this index is the perfect indicator of connectivity, or even the best one we can create,” TPI added. “In some cases, it might magnify errors, particularly if multiple datasets include errors in the same area.
“We’re still fine-tuning it to reduce error to the extent possible and ensure the index truly captures useful information. Still, this preliminary exercise shows that it is possible to obtain new information on connectivity with existing datasets rather than relying only on future, extremely expensive data.”
- Focus of Broadband Expansion Should Be On Last Mile, Says President of CETF
- Counties, Private Providers Clash Over Merits of Open Access Networks
- House Could Vote on Infrastructure Thursday, Senators Want Rosenworcel Permanent, JSI Buys Mid-State
- Pandemic and Funding Programs Increasing Investments in Broadband and M&A, Conference Hears
- Breaking Up Big Tech Alone Won’t Solve Systemic Issues, Authors of New Book Argue
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