The FCC will deliver its National Broadband Plan to Congress March 17. The plan details a strategy for connecting the entire country to the Web, with the goal of bringing the United States into a position of global leadership in high-speed broadband access. It is widely felt that this will help create jobs, spur economic growth and improve areas like education and health care.
Currently, 93 million Americans are not connected via broadband at home — roughly 35 percent of the population. An FCC survey identified the primary reasons for non-adoption to be affordability (36 percent of respondents), digital literacy (22 percent) and relevance (19 percent). Most of these non-adopters listed at least three barriers to having broadband at home.
“The gap in broadband adoption is a problem with many different dimensions that will require many different solutions,” said John Horrigan, director of consumer research for the Omnibus Broadband Initiative. “Lowering costs of service or hardware, helping people develop online skills and informing them about applications relevant to their lives are all key to sustainable adoption.”
The study splits non-broadband users into four classes: near converts (30 percent) have high rates of computer ownership but are restricted to either dial-up or usage away from home; digital hopefuls (22 percent) want to be online but lack the resources to gain access; the other two groups are characterized as digitally uncomfortable and digitally distant, which tend to have negative attitudes toward being online, citing such barriers as a lack of digital skills and the belief that the Internet is not appropriate for them.
FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski commented that broadband access is vital to keeping America competitive in the 21st century, citing a vision of the future that includes goals for digital literacy for every child, access to online job postings and training for the unemployed, broadband accessibility to medical diagnostics for first responders and medical facilities, improved energy-efficiency through smart appliances and universal access to government data and services.