John Horrigan

Growth in EBB Enrollment since June has been in Large Cities and Places with Low Broadband Adoption

Since the Emergency Broadband Benefit launched in May 2021, enrollment has grown steadily. By the end of June, 3.1 million households had enrolled, a figure that rose to 7.4 million by the beginning of November. Analysis of the geography of this growth shows that it was not evenly distributed. South Florida, Detroit, Chicago, and New York City have all seen very strong growth in enrollment since June. In the Los Angeles area, more than 100,000 additional households have signed up since then.

Action Needed Now to Preserve an Essential Lifeline During the Pandemic

Universal service is the principle that all Americans should have access to essential communications services, like phones and broadband. You may not have heard much about it, but a universal service crisis is right around the corner. Due to Federal Communications Commission inaction, nearly 800,000 people could lose phone service on December 1. On that day, changes in the FCC’s Lifeline program, which provides a modest monthly discount for communications services, mean that voice-only services like a home landline telephone and/or a cellphone will no longer be eligible for the discount.

Philadelphia and the Digital Divide: Substantial Progress Since 2019, but Work Still to be Done

A June-July 2021 survey of 2,500 Philadelphia shows that—in the aftermath of the public, private, and philanthropic sectors coming together—there has been substantial progress in closing digital gaps in the city.

The Emergency Broadband Benefit has thus far enrolled just 1 in 12 eligible households, but places with low broadband adoption rates show better results

Two weeks ago, the Federal Communications Commission released data on how many households have signed up for the Emergency Broadband Benefit (EBB), a program created by Congress in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The program offers eligible households a discount of up to $50 per month on broadband service.

Competition won't solve the digital divide—communities will

The Biden administration’s strategy to tackle the digital divide places too much emphasis on wires and competition and too little on people and communities. By proposing $65 billion in broadband spending, the administration aims to spur marketplace competition, supercharge network speeds, and reduce home internet prices. Yet a lot can go wrong when prioritizing competition, as competition and affordability do not go hand-in-hand; when prices drop, they rarely fall to levels that make service affordable for low-income households who make up most of the disconnected.

New York's Digital Divide

The COVID-19 pandemic has vividly demonstrated the disadvantages of lacking home internet service. One in four (4) households in New York State do not have a foundational tool for internet connectivity – a wireline high-speed internet subscription for their home. These gaps are more pronounced for low-income New Yorkers, older adults, and communities of color. The following data shines a light on access to digital tools in New York State using 2019 American Community Survey data. Key datapoints are as follows:

Access and Impacts: Exploring how internet access at home and online training shape people’s online behavior and perspectives about their lives

Internet access for Americans has taken on new urgency since the pandemic. Prior to it, many people without a home broadband connection could manage, perhaps using a smartphone for web surfing or taking a computer to the library to use Wi-Fi for more data-intensive applications. But the pandemic exposed the limits of wireless data plans for schoolwork or working from home, as well as the severe consequences of having limited or no access to the internet at home.

Focusing on Affordability

With a proposal to spend $100 billion to ensure that all Americans have affordable and reliable internet service, the Biden Administration has made closing the digital divide a huge priority. Much remains to be done to fill in the specifics of what this means, but two types of policy tools come to mind when thinking about how to address the digital divide. Top of mind is promoting competition. Fostering competition means investing in new infrastructure, thereby giving consumers more choice for very high-speed service.

Broadband as Civic Infrastructure: Community Empowerment, Equity, and a Digital New Deal

Unequal access to broadband Internet threatens to undermine the ability of Americans to participate in their economy, their communities, and in their democracy. Without change in this regard, the country will have a difficult time rebuilding after the coronavirus pandemic, especially when confronting long-standing shortfalls in economic fairness and social justice. At a time when the nation faces a crisis of commitment to social and physical infrastructure, access to broadband carries the potential to create opportunities for individuals and communities.

States Look at the Data as They Try to Address the Digital Divide

Policymakers and other stakeholders are becoming more aware of the hazards of assuming everyone has online access. Many are interested in understanding the places where online access may be lower than the norm and the population groups that may have limited or no access to the internet. Recent work I have done sheds light on some of these issues.