Broadband Is Too Important for This Many in the US to Be Disconnected

For the vast majority of us, broadband has become so commonplace in our professional, personal, and social lives that we rarely think about how much we depend on it. Yet without broadband, our lives would be radically upended: Our work days would look different, we would spend our leisure time differently, and even our personal relationships would exist differently.

But if broadband is an essential part of daily American life in the 21st century, how can we be comfortable with the fact that over 19 million households do not have a mobile or in-home subscription? Imagine if an electricity outage like the 2003 Northeast blackout occurred every day. Or if the Flint water crisis impacted the entire states of Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, and Wisconsin. That’s the scale of broadband disconnect this country experiences.

Simply put, the country needs to make an aggressive case to reach universal broadband adoption. But what does that even mean? Compared to electricity and water, do we understand all the ways broadband impacts individual and community wellbeing? Based on an initial scan of academic and applied research, the short answer is no.

With communities all across the country exploring ways to overcome the digital divide, and with Congress sending clear signals about the importance to address rural disconnect, now is an opportune time to help policymakers and practitioners understand the benefits of pursuing new infrastructure, public policies, and training programs. For us, that process begins with understanding where the current state of knowledge is clear and where it falls short.

Continue reading at Brookings.edu

 

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Microsoft Disputes FCC’s Broadband Availability Data

Microsoft is challenging the Federal Communications Committee’s (FCC) recent broadband-availability reports. According to Microsoft, the FCC’s data overstates the extent to which broadband is actually available throughout the nation. The FCC currently defines broadband as 25 Mbps down and 3 Mbps up. In some areas, however, Microsoft asserts that not all households have access to this standard.

Microsoft has build an interactive tools to demonstrate their findings. Here is one example:

Screen Shot 2019-08-06 at 10.34.14 AM

Select your county at the link and see the results HERE. Scroll down the page to the interactive map.  The FCC disputes these findings in their Order to validate the Nations broadband maps.  More details in FCC Order FCCCIRC 1908-02 which Establishes the Digital Opportunity Data Collection system at this LINK.

 

 

Federal Reserve Bank Report on Broadband Digital Divide

The Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City released its report Disconnected: Seven Lessons on Fixing the Digital Divide on July 31st at a State Broadband Leaders Network Meeting.

CONCLUSION: THREE OPPORTUNITIES FOR ACTION

The digital divide is wide and complex. No one group can bridge the divide alone—not government, banks, businesses or community organizations. Each of these groups, however, must play a role if the divide is to be narrowed.

This report identified three specific opportunities for action, which align with the three legs of the digital 1inclusion stool:

1. Research and evaluate the impact of policy on broadband expansion.

Good policy requires good data. Throughout this project, we found research related to the economic affect broadband has on communities. The studies documented the correlation between broadband and economic opportunity, but questions remain as to what policies best encourage broadband expansion. Policies vary greatly from one state to the next, especially as it relates to which types of entities—large carriers, small independent for-profit providers, municipalities and cooperatives—are allowed to build and operate networks. Elected officials would find it easier to make informed decisions if they had access to research on the effectiveness of these policies on boosting broadband deployment and improving affordability. Broader research on improving affordability and adoption would also help inform the field.

2. Support and expand workforce development programs focused on digital skills training.

Digital skills are a must for the in-demand jobs of today and tomorrow. Innovative approaches to preparing workers can provide a pathway to living-wage jobs that don’t require a four-year degree, or, in many cases, even a two-year degree. Simply training workers on basic office-related programs like email and word processing can boost their employability. Registered apprenticeship programs can further expedite the process of developing and onboarding qualified workers. Workforce development programs targeting LMI individuals may also attract interest from banks seeking CRA-related activities, as outlined in Engaging Workforce Development: A Framework for Meeting CRA Obligations by the Federal Reserve Banks of Dallas and Kansas City.

3. Support computer donation programs targeting those in need.

Businesses, government agencies, universities and other anchor institutions frequently replace computers in two-year to four-year cycles. Surplus computers have little monetary value, typically just pennies on the dollar. When donated, though, they can make a significant difference—whether the computer goes to a low-income mom pursuing her education, or a student learning to code. A donated computer can be a low-cost, high-impact way to change one’s economic trajectory. Such initiatives, particularly when targeting LMI populations and combined with workforce training programs, could also attract interest from banks seeking CRA-related activities.

The full report, with a long section on rural broadband, including a sidebar on mapping issues, can be downloaded HERE.

Can Social Media Handle Four Billion More Users?

Russ Steele

It has been reported that Facebook globally has two billion users, on today’s networks with large segments of the global population living in internet deserts. Places were there is no connectivity, making the use of social media extremely difficult. China’s social media sites are reported to have half a billion users. Add another half a billion to include all the other social network sites, and it’s clear we are becoming a connected world.

space_network_matrixSpace-based internet will cover the planet from 57 degrees North to 57 degrees South. Industry experts estimate this will bring 4 billion more users to the internet that do not have access today.

That would be four billion new customers for Amazon, many living in rural areas far from the local store. It is also four billion potential social media users. Social media giants Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and a plethora of others are struggling to manage the current customer base, with news of data breaches in the daily news. Can they handle four billion more customers?

While writing this, I had another thought. Amazon Prime Members are offered free two-day shipping. Satellite internet is going to connect hundreds of millions of new rural customers, many at the end of a 40-mile driveway. Once Amazon has added hundreds of millions of rural customer will shipping still be free?

CETF Newsletter

Broadband Adoption Trends Are Improving But We Need Your Help
As a someone who cares about broadband issues in California, we thought you would be interested in this important news:   More Californians are getting connected to the Internet at home using devices that will make a real difference in improving their access to educational, career and healthcare opportunities.

The 2019 Statewide Survey on Broadband Adoption, which CETF conducted in partnership with the University of California, Berkeley Institute of Governmental Studies, finds 88% of the California households have high-speed Internet access at home through either a computing device or a smartphone.

In the last two years, the proportion of Californians connecting to the Internet through a home computing device—defined as a desktop, laptop or tablet computer—has increased from 69% to 78%.  This is a positive development given that households with only smartphone access are considered “underconnected” because they are at a disadvantage in optimizing the use of technology for certain functions, such as doing schoolwork, applying for a job, or taking online classes to expand workforce skills.

Check out news coverage of the survey in Techwire.

Continue Reading HERE.