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The latest Pew Internet and American Life Project report on broadband provided some fairly predictable results but ones that can still be useful in determining how we approach broadband policy issues in the coming months.
The study noted that the rate of broadband growth is slowing (which happens as any new market begins to mature); and that a large percentage of non-subscribing consumers don’t believe that the government should be involved in addressing this issue.
The most pertinent findings from the report are that:
- 66% of Americans currently subscribe to high-speed Internet access at home, which equates to 3% year-over-year growth
- There was a 22% year-over-year growth rate in adoption by African Americans, by far the biggest growth rate of any major demographic group
- 53% say the spread of affordable broadband should not be a major government priority
- Respondents older than 50 were most skeptical that they would benefit from the Internet.
In delving deeper into the latter two statistics, Pew reports that, “Those who are not currently online are especially resistant to government efforts to expand broadband access.” This is not necessarily surprising and points to an issue – relevance (i.e., “How will I benefit?”) – that has repeatedly been identified as a barrier to broadband adoption.
NCTA and the cable industry have been talking a lot about relevance and other broadband adoption issues for the past few years. On this blog, we’ve talked about broadband adoption and considered the reasons why some people don’t choose to have home access.
In the community, we’ve seen firsthand that some consumers simply see no benefit in broadband…that is until they start using the service and then they can’t stop.
High-speed Internet service is available to 95% of American homes, but the Pew report found that 21% of American adults still do not use the Internet (and about 90% of those people say they aren’t interested in going online in the future). So, while we seek to deploy broadband to areas that do not have access, we must also find ways to increase adoption of broadband technology. The statistics clearly show there are a significant number of people who can get Internet service at home, yet have not jumped on the broadband bandwagon.
To help give adoption a push forward, NCTA and cable operators are finding ways to encourage adoption, improve digital literacy, educate on broadband issues and provide affordable broadband access, including:
- Digital Adoption Coalition. Led by the nonprofit organization One Economy, this coalition hopes to bring broadband to as many as 250,000 low-income households. The coalition, which includes computer technology companies, ISPs, and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), has applied for funding to get broadband to citizens in public housing facilities via computers, low-cost access, and training programs.
- Adoption Plus. Last year, NCTA proposed the Adoption Plus (A+) Initiative, a public-private partnership designed to provide discounted computer equipment, media literacy training and deeply discounted broadband service for middle school children in low-income households. A+ program would help give millions of students the opportunity to become digital citizens of the 21st Century by driving sustainable broadband adoption and positively affecting educational outcomes.
- Digital Connectors. Comcast is actively involved with non-profit One Economy in the Digital Connectors program. This program provides talented youth with technology, leadership and 21st Century workplace training in return for their volunteer time providing service to their friends, families and community.
- LULAC Partnership. This summer, Time Warner Cable (TWC) and the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) announced a partnership to increase broadband technology training. TWC is providing a three-year grant for technology centers in Latino communities for training, technology and support services. The technology centers across the country will become a part of LULAC’s Empower Hispanic America with Technology Network which already provides free broadband access to 100,000 people. The centers will receive computer equipment, high-speed Internet access and educational curriculum.
- Cox’s Computers for Families (CFF) Program. Cox Communications a few years ago began their CFF program in Santa Barbara, California to promote broadband adoption. This two-year public-private partnership provides sustainable broadband adoption for middle school-aged children in low income households that do not currently receive broadband service. Sound familiar? NCTA’s Adoption Plus program builds on this initiative at Cox. In addition this past May, Cox began a new program in Fairfax County, Virginia called “Broadband CNCT” (Computers & Neighbors Coming Together) where homes of school-aged children in one neighborhood will receive high-speed Internet service at a discounted rate. This is a pilot program the company hopes to replicate in other areas.
These programs are just a few examples of how industry, government and non-profit partners can address the core reasons why some Americans say they don’t and won’t subscribe to broadband.