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Public Policy

State of the Union Address Nods to Public/Private Commitment to Closing the Digital Divide

@johnsolit

January 29, 2014

Last night during his State of the Union address, President Obama expressed his continued support for ConnectEd – the initiative to connect 99 percent of US students to a high-speed Internet connection in schools and libraries within five years. The President said, “Last year, I pledged to connect 99 percent of our students to high-speed broadband over the next four years.  Tonight, I can announce that…we’ve got a down payment to start connecting more than 15,000 schools and twenty million students over the next two years, without adding a dime to the deficit.”

President Obama’s commitment to schools through broadband confirms the invaluable contribution that the Internet makes in getting an education, finding a job, starting a business or many other activities.  We commend the President on reaffirming his commitment to providing students with the tools they need to thrive in the information age; something the cable industry has been focused on for years.

In addition to cable’s increasing presence in providing high-speed Internet and Wi-Fi solutions to schools and school districts, operators are also working to help individuals get online and improve their digital skills.  As surveys often tell us, there a many different reasons why some people remain “offline”. According to a recent study by the Pew Internet & American Life Project, 15 percent of Americans do not use the Internet or e-mail. Of that 15 percent, 7 percent of non-users report the reason is a lack of availability while 34 percent say it’s not relevant to them and another 32 percent cite their sense that the Internet is not easy to use. Only 6 percent cite the cost of service.

That’s why cable companies in hundreds of communities across the country are tackling the challenge of Internet adoption by supporting programs that provide low-cost computers, affordable broadband access, and digital skills training. Over 250,000 low-income families have already been connected and cable operators will continue to look at ways to expand the reach to more families.

Closing the digital divide and preparing students to compete in a 21st century economy are a worthy goals.  It will take efforts from all sectors, public and private, to address the real reasons why some Americans still aren’t online, and the cable industry will continue to do our part.