John Horrigan

What Does the FCC’s Broadband Deployment Report Tell Us About the Digital Divide?

In 2012, the Federal Communications Commission released its eighth Broadband Deployment Report (the "706 report") and found that approximately 19 million Americans at the end of 2011 lacked access to high-speed internet access. The FCC concluded that "broadband is not yet being deployed in a reasonable and timely fashion." On May 29, 2019, the FCC distributed a press release summarizing findings from its revised 2019 Broadband Deployment Report and stated that at the end of 2017, 21.3 million Americans lacked access to broadband networks.

How to think local about the global tech companies

Remember when futurists told us that the internet would result in the “death of distance”? That prophecy has fallen short, as cities remain hubs for commerce and community. The growing geographic consequences of digital technologies puts new demands on decision makers at all levels of government. Bolstering their levels of expertise on these issues is clearly needed and each of the local policy issues raised above would benefit from additional analytical scrutiny.

Digital Skills and Job Training: Community-driven initiatives are leading the way in preparing Americans for today’s jobs

The American job market, by a lot of measures, seems very healthy. The unemployment rate is low and, though labor-force participation has been at historically-low levels, recent employment numbers indicate that more people are coming back to the job market. But there are some Americans who have not benefitted from the improving job picture. Even among those with jobs, wage growth – especially for those whose pay is middle-income or less – has been weak, while upper-income workers have fared better.

There are well-paying job opportunities for those on the lower end of the socio-economic spectrum for so-called middle-skill jobs. These are jobs that generally do not require a college degree and pay a living wage.

Touch, Trust, and Tech

Addressing community challenges – education, a strong economy, race, and social equity – means that every community institution needs to be part of the solution. And mayors and elected county officials are wise to understand one institution – the public library – brings a unique mix of assets to the table:

Touch:  Pew Research data shows that 80 percent of Americans have been to a public library at some point in a given year – either in-person or online.

Home internet access for low-income household helps people manage time, money, and family schedules

Could home broadband access help ease the burden of the "bandwidth tax" (the phenomenon of not being able to focus on long-term goals because so much cognitive effort is spent simply figuring out how to make ends meet in the short run) by giving low-income people a tool to better manage time and information? A new survey of recent Comcast Internet Essentials (IE) subscribers suggests that it might. In particular, the survey shows that a high-speed internet subscription at home helps low-income people to better manage time and money.

Experimentation is the Watchword as Communities Seek to Close Adoption Gaps

For many low-income Americans, internet connectivity is a struggle. About half (53%) of those in households with annual incomes under $30,000 have a home broadband internet subscription plan, compared with 93% of households whose annual incomes exceed $75,000. This makes closing connectivity gaps a priority for policymakers, the non-profit sector, and many internet service providers (ISPs). What is perhaps less appreciated is the variety of models that have arisen to try to reach those without broadband at home. The population of non-home broadband users is not monolithic.

Digital Inclusion and Equity: Why Now

[Commentary] Why are we talking about digital inclusion and equity now in a way that is different from, say, eight years ago? The obvious answer – very different presidential administrations – only touches the surface. Consumers are adopting digital tools like never before and, in some segments of the U.S., we’ve reached a “tech abundance” threshold that is driving a bottom-up interest in digital inclusion in many communities. Tech abundance doesn’t mean that everyone in society has adopted digital tools.

Americans have mixed views on policies encouraging broadband adoption

As the Federal Communications Commission continues to address broadband infrastructure and access, Americans have mixed views on two policies designed to encourage broadband adoption. A substantial majority of the public (70%) believes local governments should be able to build their own broadband networks if existing services in the area are either too expensive or not good enough, according to the survey, conducted March 13-27. Just 27% of US adults say these so-called municipal broadband networks should not be allowed. (A number of state laws currently prevent cities from building their own high-speed networks, and several U.S. senators recently introduced a bill that would ban these restrictions.)

At the same time, fewer than half of Americans (44%) think the government should provide subsidies to help lower-income Americans pay for high-speed internet at home. A larger share (54%) says high-speed home internet service is affordable enough that nearly every household should be able to buy service on its own.

These policy debates are occurring at a time when roughly nine-in-ten Americans describe high-speed internet service as either essential (49%) or important but not essential (41%). Only about one-in-ten Americans say that high-speed internet access is either not too important (6%) or not important at all (3%).

Information Overload

Since the 1970s, the term “information overload” has captured society’s anxiety about the growth in the production of information having potentially bad consequences for people as they struggle to cope with seemingly constant streams of messages and images. A new Pew Research Center survey finds that, for the most part, the large majority of Americans do not feel that information overload is a problem for them.

Some 20% say they feel overloaded by information, a decline from the 27% figure from a decade ago, while 77% say they like having so much information at their fingertips. Two-thirds (67%) say that having more information at their disposals actually helps to simplify their lives. The survey shows that most Americans are comfortable with their abilities to cope with information flows in their day-to-day lives. Moreover, those who own more devices are also the ones who feel more on top of the data and media flows in their lives. Those who are more likely to feel information overload have less technology and are poorer, less well-educated and older.