2022 TPRC Charles Benton Early Career Scholar Awards

Benton Institute for Broadband & Society

Saturday, September 17, 2022

Digital Beat

2022 TPRC Charles Benton Early Career Scholar Awards

Remarks as prepared for delivery at TPRC 2022

Adrianne B. Furniss

As I drafted these remarks, I recalled that last year at this time, I was hoping that we’d be able to gather in person to celebrate TPRC’s 50th conference. I guess wishes can sometimes come true!

Of course, wishing doesn’t make reality: it takes vision and lots of hard work. It is that hard work that makes a celebration feel so good and appropriate.

When we think of addressing our common problems, wishing doesn’t solve them. To improve lives, we must engage and connect researchers, policymakers, members of the private sector and civil society, students, and practitioners. I believe that such engagement and connection is core to both TPRC’s and Benton’s missions. So today I celebrate not just gathering here in person, but also this Benton-TPRC collaboration.

In the last year, the Benton Institute for Broadband & Society has been doing some celebrating of our own. For 40 years we have been protecting democratic values and championing a communications system that works for everyone. Our values of access, equity, and diversity remain the same. But we’ve advanced our mission with the times. We began as an institution focused on the public interest issues raised by emerging communications technologies and on championing long-term public policy solutions to address these issues. We’re now focused on the dominant communications platform of our day: ensuring fast, fair, open broadband for all.

With that perspective, I’m here to ask you to help me celebrate some more hard work—that of the 2022 Charles Benton Early Career Scholars.

First, the winner this year is Dr. Erezi Ogbo. She was a postdoctoral associate researcher at the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism working with Professors Hernan Galperin and François Bar to study the digital divide. She's now at North Carolina Central University as an Assistant Professor.

In Broadband Voucher Programs: Evaluating the Alabama Broadband Connectivity Program, Erezi examined the only digital inclusion program using direct-to-consumer vouchers that has been implemented in the U.S.

Known as ABC for Students, the program provided continuity of broadband service for about 200,000 Alabama students during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Erezi’s research found that ABC for Students’ participation rates rose with lower median income, more Black and more Hispanic populations, suggesting that the program reached households that were most in need of assistance with broadband adoption. Additionally, ABC for Students’ participation was a positive predictor of Emergency Broadband Benefit participation, suggesting that outreach using trusted messengers and a previous experience with broadband were beneficial.

The runner-up for this year’s award is Cole Campbell, a PhD candidate in economics at the University of Illinois at Chicago. His research found that access to fixed, high-speed broadband appeared to improve student achievement—specifically math and reading test scores—in North Carolina public schools.

I am enormously grateful to Professor Robin Mansell who chaired the TPRC Committee that reviewed the entries for the Charles Benton Early Career Scholar Award. And please give a round of applause to this year’s committee—Robin, Derrick Cogburn, Catherine Middleton, Amit Schejter, and Christopher Yoo.

The Benton Institute for Broadband & Society thanks the TPRC community for continuing to recognize digital inclusion and broadband adoption scholarship.  So, once again, please join me in congratulating Dr. Erezi Ogbo and Cole Campbell in recognition of their work.

Adrianne B. Furniss is the Executive Director of the Benton Institute for Broadband & Society.

The Benton Institute for Broadband & Society is a non-profit organization dedicated to ensuring that all people in the U.S. have access to competitive, High-Performance Broadband regardless of where they live or who they are. We believe communication policy - rooted in the values of access, equity, and diversity - has the power to deliver new opportunities and strengthen communities.

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Broadband Delivers Opportunities and Strengthens Communities

By Adrianne B. Furniss.