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Public Policy

Senate Hearing Explores Closing the Digital Divide

October 28, 2013

The U.S. Senate Subcommittee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation’s Subcommittee on Communications, Technology, and the Internet will hold a hearing tomorrow on broadband adoption, titled “Broadband Adoption: The Next Mile.” While a number of things are sure to be discussed, the most important will be how the U.S. can overcome existing challenges and ensure that more Americans get connected to the Internet. The hearing will explore the specific hurdles various demographic groups and regions experience when first utilizing broadband.

So why aren’t more Americans online?  A recent Pew Internet and American Life report revealed that 15 percent of adults do not use the Internet and relevance is the number one reason (34 percent) that they haven’t yet connected.  These adults simply don’t see how the Internet can be beneficial to their lives. A secondary reason for not connecting is that those offline find the Internet difficult to use (32 percent) and others say the cost of owning a computer (13 percent) or subscribing to Internet service (6 percent) is too expensive .

Making sure we address the real reasons that the remaining Americans are slow to adopt broadband will be critical to ensuring widespread access and utilization.  Cable has long played a role in encouraging broadband adoption. For low-income families, some cable companies offer inexpensive high-speed broadband to those who qualify. They also offer access to affordable computers, modems, and training in digital literacy and practical uses of the Internet. So far, over 230,000 families have been helped through cable’s broadband adoption programs.

The hearing will begin at 10:30 am and can be streamed live on the Senate Commerce Committee Website.