Thursday, October 31
America’s 60 million rural residents received an early holiday gift this week when the Federal Communications Commission launched an initiative to improve rural communications. In unanimous agreement, the FCC acknowledged problems caused by the existing tangle of regulations, technologies and business plans that have long affected telephone call completion for some rural customers. This week, the FCC took action to ensure better and more accountable service and connectivity.
This action addresses an outstanding issue that has been around for years. The failure of certain calls to go through to rural Americans resulted from new communications technologies interacting with older telephone networks and the failure of regulations to keep pace in the marketplace. Everyone in America, and particularly those in rural areas, depends upon a reliable communications network. For almost 3 decades I represented rural Virginia in Congress, and I know firsthand of the extraordinary importance rural residents attach to reliable and accessible communications.
So, as we look across the communications landscape, we see changes everywhere. More than 40 percent of homes today are wireless-only, and almost that same number receive their phone service through a broadband provider. In Florida and Michigan, to pick two representative states, only about 15% of homes connect to traditional telephone landlines today. Americans in droves have dropped their outdated non-broadband plain old phone service and are quickly moving to high-speed, advanced broadband networks and services, both wired and wireless.
Some consumer advocates have suggested that rural call completion must be addressed prior to implementing policies necessary to the upgrade and modernization of our nation’s telephone networks to all broadband. It’s an important need which the FCC has now addressed in a positive and thoughtful manner. As the FCC moves forward to promote better and more ubiquitous high-speed broadband access nationwide, moving the few remaining users of outdated networks to more functional connections that provide more varied services, it can best accomplish the goal by modernizing its regulations to reflect the technologies of today.
I commend the FCC for this week’s action and encourage the Commission to continue its efforts to ensure that regulations match modern technological capabilities. Promoting certainty is the fastest way to ensure that high-speed all-broadband networks become reality.
Tuesday, October 29
Visit here for the methodology and an embed code.
Monday, September 30
by Mario H. Lopez
Hispanic Heritage Month began in 1968. Two decades later, it was officially recognized when it was enacted into law by President Reagan.
Since that time, America’s Hispanic community has experienced significant economic and social advancement. Given IIA’s mission to advocate for the expansion of broadband service across the country, I’d like to focus on the inroads that have been made in the Hispanic community with respect to broadband access and adoption.
According to Pew, 68% of Hispanics now own a cellphone, and of that number, 60% mostly use their phones to go online. That’s not too surprising; Hispanics have for years been among the most active adopters of mobile broadband, and as smartphones have proliferated wildly, that rate of growth should continue.
As for home broadband connections, however, the numbers are less promising. In its May survey, Pew also found that a little over half — 53% — of Hispanic households had high-speed Internet. That’s compared to 74% of whites, and 64% of African Americans.
Given the importance of broadband to access education, economic opportunity, telemedicine, and employment, our nation should rededicate itself to encourage additional investment in next-generation wired and wireless networks throughout the country. These networks help power the devices we use today, and will use tomorrow.
Mobile broadband has greatly benefitted the Hispanic community. Yet, mobile broadband represents just one part of the solution needed to achieve universal high-speed Internet access connectivity for all—irrespective of one’s geographic location or social status.
Achieving the goal of bringing every American into the digital age, won’t be cheap. But as with bringing universal telephone service to every household a century ago, it can be achieved when government allows for the creation of an economic environment that allows innovation and ingenuity to flourish.
America has always had a strong, and diverse, social fabric. It’s one of the reasons why we celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month. And communications has been key to creating that social fabric. We are connected as a nation, and together we can ensure everyone in America can remain connected, no matter how we communicate.
Mario H. Lopez is President of the Hispanic Leadership Fund, an IIA member organization.
Monday, August 26
70%, which is the number of American adults who now have high-speed Internet at home, according to the latest numbers from Pew. That’s an increase of 4% from a year ago.
As for lingering barriers to broadband adoption, Pew finds:
The demographic factors most correlated with home broadband adoption continue to be educational attainment, age, and household income. Almost nine in ten college graduates have high-speed internet at home, compared with just 37% of adults who have not completed high school. Similarly, adults under age 50 are more likely than older adults to have broadband at home, and those living in households earning at least $50,000 per year are more likely to have home broadband than those at lower income levels.
Policy implication? We must continue encouraging investment in broadband networks.
Friday, August 23
New numbers from Pew show that home broadband access continues to rise, with only a handful of Americans still choosing lower dial-up search speeds (and, unfortunately in some areas, high-speed broadband may not yet be a choice due to policymakers requiring legacy carriers to maintain outdated copper networks):
In June 2000, when about half of adults were online, only 3% of American households had broadband access. Now, as of December 2012, the tables have turned: 3% of Americans connect to the internet at home via dial-up.
Interestingly, Hispanics are most likely to have dial-up access at home, despite the fact that they lead in mobile broadband adoption.
Wednesday, August 21
When it comes to social media, Facebook is the undeniable 800 lbs. gorilla. But it turns out the company’s founder and CEO has bigger fish to fry. From a Facebook press release:
Mark Zuckerberg, founder and CEO of Facebook, today announced the launch of internet.org, a global partnership with the goal of making internet access available to the next 5 billion people.
“Everything Facebook has done has been about giving all people around the world the power to connect,” Zuckerberg said. “There are huge barriers in developing countries to connecting and joining the knowledge economy. Internet.org brings together a global partnership that will work to overcome these challenges, including making internet access available to those who cannot currently afford it.”
With a little over one-third of the world’s population currently connected, Zuckerberg’s initiative faces a steep climb. But it certainly is a worthy goal.
Friday, July 19
In an op-ed for UPI, U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce president and chief executive officer Javier Palomarez (who is also one of our Broadband Ambassadors) celebrates the strides America has made when it comes to connecting people to broadband:
Just a few years ago, it was common to lament that America was falling behind Europe and others in terms of broadband access, availability and speed. Today, it’s clear that we’ve not only made remarkable progress in delivering high-speed connectivity to the overwhelming majority of Americans but in many ways we now lead.
For example, 94 percent of U.S. homes have access to broadband with speeds of 10 megabits per second or higher and more than two-thirds of U.S. homes are hooked up to the Internet—compared to just more than 4 percent in 2000.
Palomarez’s full op-ed, which gives a lot of credit to the Obama administration, is worth checking out.
Thursday, June 06
This post was authored by Floyd Mori, IIA Member and President and CEO of the Asian Pacific American Institute for Congressional Studies.
The desire to increase equal opportunities for all Americans is a noble one. But the process of achieving this worthy goal is complicated, and it requires a variety of approaches—each tailored to meet the different needs of different communities.
For example, the Asian-American community is incredibly diverse, comprised of some groups that traditionally have achieved higher levels of education and economic stability. But their success doesn’t tell the whole story: The Asian-American community also includes many that continue to struggle with poverty, language and educational barriers, as well as health disparities. Their struggles mirror the challenges that affect many other minority communities in America.
It turns out that one way to increase equality of opportunity for these communities and for virtually every American is through increased access to high-speed broadband service. This service provides improved access to additional educational, professional, and social opportunities, in addition to opportunities for better health care and civic engagement. President Obama, recognizing the importance of broadband access, set a goal for providing 98 percent of all Americans with access to high-speed broadband by 2016.
Unfortunately, the availability of high-speed broadband is still limited in many parts of the country and within many minority communities, for a variety of reasons. This is a problem because in our modern, digital age, broadband access is now a necessity, not a luxury. Broadband service can strengthen communities and families, present new possibilities that lead to a better quality of life, and even act as a bridge to a brighter future.
In addition, too much of today’s communication regulatory and legislative decision-making processes are incorrectly based on yesterday’s communication network of wired connectivity. This has slowed the expansion of high-speed broadband and thus contributing to widening the inequalities we face today.
For example, distance learning has become both a viable alternative and a valuable supplement to traditional classroom learning for students at all levels and at any age. Online classes and job training can even make it possible for people to learn on their own time, a particularly important benefit for workers and families. With broadband access, non-native English speakers can choose from several language applications and programs to help them achieve proficiency in English.
Additionally, broadband-enabled applications in telehealth and mobile health (mHealth) offer better access to quality care and increased options for improved wellness and health. These health technologies also offer improved management of chronic diseases, including those that affect minority communities (including Asian-American communities) at disproportionately higher rates.
Conversely, lack of broadband access constitutes more than just an inability to get these and other benefits. In our modern time, it puts people at a tremendous disadvantage. For those without access—including many Asian Americans (in particular, our Pacific Islander and Southeast Asian communities), as well as many African Americans, Hispanics, and rural Americans—a fast solution is needed. Many minorities and other underserved groups face a real risk of falling behind and missing out on all that these exciting technologies have to offer.
That’s why it’s so important to upgrade our nation’s communications networks to Internet Protocol (IP)-based networks. Transitioning to such an infrastructure will bring increased access to next-generation, high-speed broadband networks with new capabilities and applications. These modern networks deliver faster speeds and enhanced connectivity. Moreover, unlike outdated networks, they support a variety of devices while also offering new options for services and technologies. The IP transition can transform and improve health care and education as well as provide more opportunities for civic engagement, professional development, and economic growth for us all.
Investment in modern networks is good for our economy, too. A study by Deloitte estimated U.S. investment in modern networks to be between $25–53 billion during 2012–2016; this corresponded to a conservative estimate of $73–152 billion in GDP growth and 317,000–771,000 new jobs for that same period. That investment presents many opportunities for our country and for all Americans.
The transition to next-generation networks will increase broadband access and result in economic growth and countless benefits for Americans; therefore, it must become a national priority. I believe that this transition can be achieved if our policymakers focus on encouraging private sector investment and creating a modern regulatory framework. Achieving rapid deployment of modern communications networks is the key to achieving the President’s national broadband goal and to creating true equality of opportunity. All Americans, regardless of background, should have access to broadband and to the brighter future it can deliver.
— Floyd Mori
Thursday, May 23
In an interesting op-ed for The Huffington Post, digital marketer and entrepreneur Lottie Ntim examines the digital divide — not here in America, but globally:
While Web growth in North America can be said to have been largely driven by technologies that cater to personal needs (PCs, smartphones, smartphone apps), Internet usage in other regions such as Africa, has developed through more social channels, such as mobile banking. While internet penetration in Africa hovered around 16 percent last year, mobile telephony soared to one of the highest in the world. Currently, 90 percent of the continent has access to a mobile phone—a phenomenon that has helped topple dictatorships and connects rural communities to otherwise difficult to reach services such as healthcare, in addition to the now common money transfers via text.
Nevertheless, there is certainly no shortage of demand for technologies developed for personal use in this region. However their cost and the likelihood of limited access to Wi-Fi networks has meant a different kind of growth for Africa when it comes to Web usage.
Tuesday, November 27
Courtesy of the Wall Street Journal comes some good news for the economy:
It is estimated that this year’s Cyber Monday will be the biggest online shopping day of the year for the third year in a row. According to research firm comScore, Americans are expected to spend $1.5 billion, up 20% from last year on Cyber Monday, as retailers have ramped up their deals to get shoppers to click on their websites.
The WSJ report also looks at what’s helping drive the increase in Internet sales. Not surprisingly, it’s great access to broadband:
With the growth in high speed Internet access and the wide use of smartphones and tablets, people are relying less on their work computers to shop than they did when Shop.org, the digital division of trade group The National Retail Federation, introduced the term “Cyber Monday.”
“People years ago didn’t have…connectivity to shop online at their homes. So when they went back to work after Thanksgiving they’d shop on the Monday after,” said Vicki Cantrell, executive director of Shop.org. “Now they don’t need the work computer to be able to do that.”
Somewhat ironically, this increase of home broadband access will probably lead to Cyber Monday becoming less of an event.
Friday, November 16
For methodology, and to see our reports from 2010 and 2011, visit here.
Friday, September 21
Yesterday, I had the pleasure of moderating a legislative forum held by Congressman Hank Johnson (D-GA) entitled “Beyond the Digital Divide: Capitalizing on the Technology Economy.”
Participants in the discussion included noted DJ and technologist Hank Schocklee; n4md founder James Harris; Kimberly Stewart, Chief Curator of the Be Blogalicious community and conferences; Howard Law School professor Lateef Mtima; Where Are the Blacks in Technology blog founder Kai Dupe; and Google executive Malik Ducard.
It was a lively discussion, with an emphasis on education and entrepreneurship — and how broadband access is helping to revolutionize both. On the education front, there was a focus on mobile apps, and how encouraging children at a young age to learn programming, math and app development helps them become entrepreneurs and prepare for the workforce of tomorrow. As for entrepreneurship, while everyone agreed broadband — whether it’s wired or wireless — is vital for small companies to compete in today’s technology economy, there was concern that the cost of access can act as an impediment to would-be startups.
This reminded me of something that may be overlooked by entrepreneurs as they take the plunge and embrace the power of broadband in their business — namely, the amount they can save in the long run by being connected. In fact, our recent “Start-Up Savings” report found that the average entrepreneur can save more than $16,000 in startup costs alone by utilizing a high-speed Internet connection.
Obviously, that’s a good chunk of savings for a business just getting off the ground. And as I told attendees of the forum, it shows that when it comes to competing in today’s economy — especially when investment capital continues to be tight — the benefits of being connected far outweigh the costs of connecting.
Wednesday, September 19
Over at Light Reading, Jeff Baumgartner highlights a new idea aimed at bridging the digital divide:
The pre-paid model has worked wonders for the mobile market over the years, so why shouldn’t it be applied to U.S. broadband?
Wipro Ltd. is pitching the idea to the nation’s cable operators as they think about how to stoke broadband service growth. They’d like to tailor packages to lower-income consumers (or students), but without the associated risks of non-payments and bad debt.
“There’s sort of a hole out there that’s not being addressed,” says Stephen Snyder, the global head of business innovation for Wipro’s Global Media and Telecom unit. “It could open up a whole new revenue stream.”
Wednesday, August 08
John Eggerton of Broadcasting & Cable has a brief write-up of the latest program from the FCC aimed at closing the digital divide:
The FCC and its Connect2Compete public private partnership are launching a computer recycling and donation drive Tuesday.
Redemtech, the League of United Latin American Citizens, and the Latin American Youth Center are partnering in the effort to get broadband into the hands of more low-income families.
With the cost of equipment — and learning how to use that equipment — being a major barrier for many families without broadband, this has the potential to be a very cool program.
Friday, June 08
A new study from Pew has some good news on the digital divide front:
As of April 2012, 53% of American adults age 65 and older use the internet or email. Though these adults are still less likely than all other age groups to use the internet, the latest data represent the first time that half of seniors are going online. After several years of very little growth among this group, these gains are significant.
The full study, “Older adults and internet use,” is available at Pew’s website (PDF).
Friday, May 18
Over at Politic365, Kristal High digs in to the National Urban League’s report “Connecting the Dots: Linking Broadband Adoption to Job Creation and Competitiveness”:
The report explains that in 2010, 56 percent of African Americans had access to broadband at home, compared to 67 percent of whites, or an 11 percent difference. But in 2009, the difference between those same groups was 19 percentage points.
These findings show that increasing numbers of consumers are discovering the limitless potential and possibilities brought by access to mobile broadband. It’s clear that broadband drives economic growth, job creation, and innovation in every industry—but for individuals and families, the benefits include better access to health care and educational opportunities, as well as the ability to find a job, network online, and obtain job training. And for one group that has traditionally had less access to this life-changing technology, things are changing.
The National Urban League’s report is available here (PDF).
Tuesday, May 08
There’s an old saying that the longest journey begins with a single step. It’s important to keep that saying in mind as we, as a nation, work to fulfill President Obama’s goal of bringing advanced wireless broadband services to all Americans.
The figures involved are staggering. At one point in 2009, the FCC offered an estimate that ubiquitous broadband could cost up to $350 billion — that’s almost 10 percent of the entire Federal budget for 2011 or about half the defense budget. Obviously, the government has other things to which it has committed money — Medicare, defense, education, housing – and money of this sort is simply not available for the asking, even if we were not living in times of large Federal deficits.
Even if $350 billion isn’t the right number, it is going to take a lot of money to be sure all Americans have equal access to the opportunities afforded by the broadband revolution.
Fortunately, there is a better way. Actually, there are two better ways.
The first is to harness the resources of the private sector. The good news is that private telecom companies are already eagerly playing their part in wiring America for the future. Telecom companies made tens of billions of dollars in investments last year alone, and much of that investment is focused on getting advanced broadband services (usually marketed as 4G) deployed in hundreds — soon to be thousands — of cities across the country. Those investments also promote wireline connections and maintain existing service for earlier wireless systems and networks.
The second better way is to focus on wireless rather than just wireline to make the connections of the future. America’s a big country and the best and quickest way to reach millions of Americans living in rural areas will be through advanced wireless services. These will offer the same speeds and ease of access that Americans in cities and suburbs enjoy and the deployments can be achieved much more quickly. At the very least, 4G wireless gives us another tool to reach more Americans; at the best, it provides a solution that reflects the needs of rural America as well as urban dwellers checking their smartphones or tablet computers.
But that smallest step I mentioned earlier? That’s important, too.
The FCC has just announced a $300 million grant for broadband deployment to rural areas. That sounds like a pittance in comparison with the private investment now taking place, but as the Commission notes, it “expects that carriers will likely supplement the [government] funding with private investment. While carriers are not required to participate, hundreds of thousands of Americans will gain access to broadband even if carriers only accept a portion of the money.” For those hundreds of thousands, access to broadband will open a new world of opportunity for business, jobs, education, healthcare, and entertainment. It puts rural America on an equal footing for competitiveness, and that alone makes the FCC program worthy of our support.
But as the FCC recognized, not only is much more needed, but the lion’s share of effort and investment will come from the private sector. The director of the National Broadband Plan seconded this view in stating that “[w]e have to recognize that most of this [broadband deployment] is funded by the private sector, and we expect that to continue.”
In short, government has a vital role to play, but only with private sector investment can we reach our national goal of near ubiquitous broadband. That’s why, in a global marketplace for capital, it is so important to ensure that the right regulatory policies are in place to attract capital to telecom — and to America. Private sector network operators have proven they are willing to make bold investments, if federal policy makers do not put up regulatory barriers to investment. And with the right mix of regulatory policies, strategic investment by the government, and large-scale private investment, all Americans can have 21st-century high speed advanced broadband services. It’s important for our economy and our future.
Thursday, May 03
There are two new reports worth checking out today. FIrst up, a look at the benefits of broadband for businesses courtesy of Connected Nation:
• Nearly one in three businesses (32%) earn revenues from online sales. This translates into more than 2.4 million U.S. businesses
• Broadband-connected businesses bring in approximately $300,000 more in annual median revenues than non-broadband adopting businesses
• An estimated 4.4 million U.S. business establishments have websites, including more than 2 million businesses with fewer than five employees
• Teleworking also continues to have an impact in the marketplace, with 24% of rural businesses and 35% of non-rural businesses currently allowing employees to telework or telecommute
• Minority-owned businesses in the U.S. account for $49 billion in annual sales revenues from online sales (or 12% of total online sales in the U.S.). A large percentage of minority-owned businesses report using broadband to handle some or all of their business functions (79%, compared to 76% of all businesses on average)
Connected Nation’s full “2012 Jobs and Broadband Report” is available on their website (PDF). It’s worth digging in to.
Also worth checking out is “Connecting the Dots: Linking Broadband Adoption to Job Creation and Job Competitiveness” (PDF) from the National Urban League, which examines where the digital divide persists in America, and highlights how expanding access helps drive employment and opportunity in the African America community. From the report’s findings:
• Overall broadband adoption gap is narrowing: In 2010, the home broadband adoption gap between African Americans and white Americans was 11 percentage points—in 2009, this was 19 percentage
points (56% for African Americans and 67% for white Americans in 2010).
• Target broadband adoption efforts at high school dropouts and households below $20,000 annual income: This group has persistently low broadband adoption—38% of African American and 51% of white American high school dropouts adopted broadband in 2010.
• Close broadband adoption gaps by linking it to jobs: Segment of African American population with low adoption has the most interest in using broadband for jobs—77% of African Americans and 17% of white American high school dropouts used broadband to search for jobs in 2009.
• African Americans are underrepresented in broadband jobs and businesses: African Americans were 8% of broadly-defined STEM occupations in 2010 and made 0.23% of revenues in information sector businesses in 2007. Broadband adoption can be leveraged to change this.
Monday, April 02
Over at FoxNews Latino, Kristian Ramos examines the negative effects America’s coming spectrum crunch could have on the Hispanic community:
While [Hispanic broadband adoption] gains are impressive, a looming spectrum crunch could stagnate some of the growth Hispanics are currently seeing in accessing the internet. Cost has always been an inhibitor of access for Hispanics and the Internet. We are currently at 80 percent of spectrum capacity. Mobile Media carriers are already putting caps on their Internet service, which translates into extra fees to use wireless capabilities on smart phones.
To ensure that Hispanics are able to engage in mobile activism we need to make sure their access is not diminished in a spectrum crunch. Jonathon Spalter, president of Mobile Future, said in an address to the Minority Media and Telecom Council that even with these new caps the possibility that we will run out of spectrum soon is very real. The loss of easy access to spectrum would quickly erase the gains made in bridging the digital divide.
Ramos’ full piece is definitely worth checking out.
Thursday, March 01
At the Huffington Post, Gerry Smith examines the digital divide. The whole piece (which mentions IIA’s own analysis “10 Ways Being Online Saves You Money”) is worth a read. Here’s a taste:
[B]eing disconnected isn’t just a function of being poor. These days, it is also a reason some people stay poor. As the Internet has become an essential platform for job-hunting and furthering education, those without access are finding the basic tools for escaping poverty increasingly out of reach.
“The cost of being offline is greater now than it was 10 years ago,” said John Horrigan, vice president of policy research at TechNet, a trade association representing high-tech companies. “So many important transactions take place online. If you don’t have access to high-speed Internet, you’re missing out on a lot.”