BROADBAND ADOPTION: More Challenges in Row for Lifeline Reform Initiative?

More Challenges in Row for Lifeline Reform Initiative

Many international studies have shown how Broadband and the Internet improve economic growth and productivity. Though, low-income households are the least likely segment to subscribe to internet. Internet connection has become essential to achieve success in personal and professional life as job, education shopping deals all of them are available online.

To help address this inequity, the Federal Communication Commission (FCC) has a program—called Lifeline—specifically targeting telecommunications service for low-income individual and households. The Lifeline program has provided a discount on phone service for qualifying low-income consumers to ensure that all Americans have the opportunities and security that phone service brings.

In 2015, however, the opportunity gap is about broadband service, not telephone service, and FCC has taken on the challenge of advocating the transition of the existing program to the broadband era. The Census Bureau’s American Community Survey found that just 52 percent of low-income households in the U.S., with household incomes below $35,000, now subscribe to wireline broadband at home.

However, it needs to be clarified that just Broadband availability will not necessarily improve economic growth. What actually develops them is Broadband acceptance and usage. It needs to be accessible to everyone but only accessibility does not bring improvement. Thus, the key issue internet face is to get everybody connected and using the same.

So, the problem is not broadband availability but broadband adoption. There is a substantial gap — in the United States, and elsewhere — between availability and broadband adoption. Most of the people that do not use the internet indicate that they do not use it because they do not like to try new technologies. Also not having a computer is another main reason for the same. Around 20% do not access the Internet because they do not know how or do not see the need to do it.

In the words of Stuart N. Brotman in his article “The Global Broadband Adoption Gap Needs Greater Attention”, FCC can start working on the broadband adoption challenges with the following,

  • Government policymakers should improve the confidence and security of investors by encouraging new private infrastructure investments.
  • Hardware companies and entrepreneurs should improve the affordability of digital services and products by using new technologies and adopting open standards.
  • TAll, but specially public and private entities should improve digital skills in all societies and end with the digital divide – experience from developed economies show that even with broadband connectivity and devices available at affordable prices.

The reality is that we need to decrease the gap and get more people to use the internet. Supply seems to be outstripping demand. Broadband adoption gap is both a marketplace and policy issue around the world that needs to be addressed at the earliest.