FCC Says 93 Million Americans are 'Disconnected'
WASHINGTON: The FCC has determined
that about one-third of Americans don’t have a broadband Internet connection at
home. The main barriers to adoption are cost and literacy, the commission said.
The agency is working on a plan to deploy nationwide wireless broadband, due to
Congress March 17. The usage study, “Broadband Adoption and Use in America,” is
being released today at the Brookings Institution.
“We need to tackle the challenge of connecting 93 million Americans to our
broadband future,” said FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski. “In the 21st century,
a digital divide is an opportunity divide. To bolster American competitiveness
abroad and create the jobs of the future here at home, we need to make sure
that all Americans have the skills and means to fully participate in the
The FCC said its plan “details a strategy for connecting the country to
affordable, world-class broadband.” The notion is that ubiquitous broadband
access will create jobs and drive economic growth.
The commission said it conducted a national random “digit-dial” survey of more
than 5,000 people in October and November 2009 to get a handle on who has
broadband. Around 35 percent of adults did not have home connections--roughly
80 million adults and 13 million kids five and older. Broadband for the
purposes of the survey was defined not by speed, but by connection type, e.g.,
cable modem, DSL, fixed wireless, satellite, mobile wireless, fiber-optic or
Among other findings:
- 65 percent of adults have broadband at home.
- 6 percent of Americans use dial-up.
- 6 percent surf at the library, work or community centers.
The survey indicated that income and education delineated broadband access and
- 46 percent high school graduates had broadband at home versus 82 percent of
people who attended college.
- 36 percent said they don’t subscribe at home because of the cost; the average
monthly broadband bill was found to be $41.
The FCC cited “digital literacy,” or lack there-of, as a barrier. Twenty-two
percent of non-adopters said they either didn’t have “digital skills” or were
concerned about the security risks of the ’Net. Nineteen percent said the
Internet is a “waste of time.”
“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 FCC figured there were four categories of non-adopters. There are the “near
converts,” comprising about a third of the hold-outs who either have dial-up or
go to the library. Their median age is 45.
The “digital hopefuls” made up 22 percent of the total. Predominately
Hispanic and African-American, this group didn’t have the necessary resources
for broadband access.
Then there were the “digitally uncomfortable,” 20 percent of non-adopters, who
displayed “tepid attitudes” toward the ’Net, the FCC said. The fourth group,
the “digitally distant,” comprised 28 percent of non-adopters, and didn’t see the
point of being online. Median age was 63.
The complete 52-page survey is available at the FCC
Web site in .pdf form.
The agency last week released what it termed “working recommendations” for the
national broadband plan. Rather than provide and outline or details on an
infrastructure proposal, the recommendations simply enumerate the projected
benefits of nationwide broadband access. (See “FCC’s
Broadband Plan Working Recommendations.”)
(Image by Bonnie Natko)