Brian Whitacre

An unexpected digital divide? A look at internet speeds and socioeconomic groups

As societies and economies continue to digitize, the need to understand the digital divide beyond binary availability or adoption metrics is increasing. Understanding the quality and performance of home internet—measured by internet speeds—among different socioeconomic groups contributes to the complex digital equity landscape at a time when all U.S. states and territories are completing digital equity plans.

Rural Families Need Broadband Subsidy Program More but Use It Less

While the future of the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) remains uncertain, it is worth reviewing how the program fared in rural America. Home broadband adoption rates in rural areas have historically been 5-10 percentage points lower than those in urban locations.

Research and Analysis: Rural Internet Subscribers Pay More, New Data Confirms

Rural advocates have high hopes for the Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment (BEAD) Program. While it primarily focuses on providing infrastructure to places that are “unserved” and “underserved”, there is also a requirement for states to describe how their plans to award funds will address broadband affordability. Both are important topics for rural residents. The most recent data we have show dramatic rural-urban gaps in both broadband access and adoption. It’s widely recognized that affordability plays a large role in why households remain offline.

States will soon dole out federal funding for broadband internet. Not every state is ready for the task

The Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment (BEAD) Program differs from previous federal broadband programs because it promised to allocate the funding to individual states and allow them to figure out the best way to distribute the funds. Once states receive their broadband funding, they still have to set up a mechanism to request proposals from internet service providers, grade the proposals that come in, and o

Broadband Workforce Survey Shows Challenges Providers Expect During BEAD Rollout

recently released survey of fixed-broadband providers demonstrates their workforce expectations as the Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment (BEAD) Program gains momentum across states. Representatives of 46 broadband providers—including electric cooperatives and fixed-wireless, telephone, and cable companies—completed the survey. These providers typically served between 5,000 and 50,000 customers.

ACP Enrollment Performance Tool: Understanding Factors that Play a Role in ACP Enrollment

Recently we launched the Benton Institute’s Affordable Connectivity Program Enrollment Performance Tool, a free resource that helps communities answer the question: “How are ACP sign-ups going?” Using the tool to search 5-digit zip codes delivers two important numbers:  1) how many households have signed up for ACP and 2) the expected number of households enrolled. Comparing expected enrollment to actual enrollment is a measure of performance.

The Benton Institute ACP Performance Tool

The Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) is at an inflection point. Launched in early 2022, ACP provides 17 million households up to $30/month in subsidies to offset the cost of broadband. But the program faces two critical challenges. First, less than a third of eligible households currently participate in the program—mainly because the people who could benefit most from the subsidy are unaware that it exists. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC), local governments, and digital equity groups are stepping up efforts to improve ACP awareness and participation.

Half of ACP-Eligible Households Still Unaware of the Program

After a year of operation, half of all households eligible for the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) internet subsidy are unaware of the benefit. A January 2023 survey of low-income households finds that over 50% say they have never heard of the program or do not know anything about it. Although many eligible households are unaware of ACP, the survey points to ways in which policymakers and community leaders can encourage enrollment. First, outreach can make a difference.

Rural Communities & Digital Device Ownership

The purpose of this brief is to raise awareness of the difficulties rural communities face when trying to address the device ownership issue. Rural areas are at a distinct disadvantage when it comes to providing and supporting device ownership. This is a crucial piece of the internet use and digital equity puzzle. These rural-oriented difficulties are broken into three categories summarized as the “Three S’s:” Status Quo, Supply, and Support.

Telework and COVID-19 Resiliency in the Southeastern United States

One potential driver of economic resiliency during the COVID-19 pandemic was the ability to telework. This paper estimates the factors influencing changes in unemployment rates for states in the Southeastern US during two distinct periods: (1) the initial months of the pandemic, and (2) the recovery experienced from April through December 2020. Our results suggest industrial composition and demographic factors were strongly associated with the early rise in unemployment and the subsequent decline during the first nine months of the pandemic.