When Congress passed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act last February, it tasked the FCC with creating a plan to expand broadband access to Americans. The first step was to ask Americans about the role of broadband Internet access in their daily lives – at home, at school, and at work.
Who had it, who didn’t? Who used it, who didn’t? How do they use it? And perhaps most importantly… Why?
This research showed clear themes, and a complex problem. Some consumers lament an inability to afford service and lack of access in their community. Others are confused by complicated offerings from service providers. And many simply do not know how to use a computer or understand how the internet would be useful in their lives.
John Horrigan is the Director of Consumer Research.
I fielded a survey of 5000 Americans on their broadband usage patterns and looking at the reasons why people don’t have broadband…it goes into two big categories: cost and getting people trained and comfortable with using the internet.
We found about a third of Americans did not have broadband at home, and the leading reasons were cost, digital literacy and a perceived lack of relevance to people about whether this gadget, this tool, the internet, is useful to them.
Broadband Adoption by American Adults by Socio-Economic and Demographic Factors
At America's Digital Inclusion Summit on March 9, 2010, stories from everyday Americans illustrated how a lack of Internet access can exclude people from jobs, adequate education, family connections, and in no small way, deprive them of full ability to pursue the American dream in a knowledge-driven global economy.
One mother, Rhonda Locklear, a housing specialist with the Lumbee Tribe in Pembroke, North Carolina talked about the difficulties her family and tribe face due to a lack of access to affordable, reliable broadband service.
Like most families across the state who either don’t have access to high speed internet, or who can’t afford it, we were stuck with dial-up service in our home until two months ago. I feel that this has put my family, my sons in particular, at a severe disadvantage. …
Seemingly easy [school] assignments took him hours to complete. Isaac got very upset, discouraged and frustrated because he could not do what he needed to do. As a mother, it breaks my heart and causes me to feel that I have failed him in some way.
Peter Bowen, Applications Director, researched how people are using and experiencing the internet, at home, at work and through mobile devices. In addition to finding out how people are using their broadband connections, his research led him to focus on ensuring transparency in the buying process for consumers.
Broadband is very confusing. You can imagine a day where you go online and you go to a consumer-reports-type website… and there’s literally: ‘Here are the five services you can get in your area, by all the different providers that are there, the prices they’re offering’…. some service providers are going to be better at certain things than others.
What we really need to do is help consumers understand the differences in broadband, and then help promote competition by allowing them to look at it… and make an informed choice and sign up for something feeling good about it.
Advertised Versus Actual U.S. Fixed Broadband Residential Download Speeds (Mbps)
The landscape is changing quickly. Every day, new mobile devices and online applications are being developed that affect how Americans will use, and need, broadband. Last week the FCC released an Action Agenda for the recommendations in the National Broadband Plan. On this blog we’ll continue to track our progress, and invite readers to join us in the conversation.
Click here to learn more about the state of the broadband ecosystem.