Digital Beat Blog

benton logo

“What do you mean, you don’t use the Internet? Do you live under a rock?!”

In a time and society in which Internet use and Internet skills are expected of everyone—especially those under retirement age—affordable access to broadband infrastructures is a first, key step. But additional barriers to broadband adoption—digital skills and the motivation to use digital technologies and the Internet in the first place—must also be addressed. Recent studies have shown that cost and access remain critical barriers for going (and staying) online. But my research shows that non-users increasingly mention other issues such as a lack of skills and interest as well. At the same time, other studies found that negative attitudes to technologies and the Internet may be holding non-users back from becoming Internet users as much as socio-demographic factors, such as income and education. It is thus important that we pay attention not only to the “hard factors” of being offline, but also the “soft factors” like attitudes and perceptions that could potentially increase the motivation to go online. At the same time, it is critical that we do not patronize non-users by stigmatizing them as being stuck in the 20th century or making them feel like outsiders.

benton logo

Your Right to Know and Choose: Wheeler’s Broadband Privacy Proposal

The Federal Communications Commission Open Meeting on March 31 is shaping up to be one of high importance. Last week, I wrote about the FCC’s proposal to modernize the Lifeline program in order to make the Internet more accessible for communities of lower-income. (See: “A Historic Moment for Broadband Adoption”) This week, I take a look at FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler’s proposal to protect the online privacy of broadband consumers.

benton logo

A Historic Moment for Broadband Adoption

President Barack Obama and the Federal Communications Commission unveiled significant proposals to increase broadband adoption in the U.S. Their efforts are aimed at reducing the digital divide, paving the way for people with lower-incomes to seize the opportunities that digital technologies and connectivity provide. A look at the White House's ConnectALL initiative and the Lifeline proposed order.

benton logo

What to Expect When You’re Expecting Lifeline Reform: A Public Interest Perspective on Making Broadband Service Affordable for All

This month, the Federal Communications Commission will vote to revamp a federal telephone support program, called Lifeline, to include subsidies for broadband Internet service for low-income households. This primer should get you up to speed on the key issues at play in the docket while highlighting a public interest perspective on the ongoing discussions. Academic research increasingly points to cost being the biggest barrier to broadband adoption. A healthy, competitive Lifeline program that offers robust, meaningful broadband access to low-income Americans is one of the federal government’s most powerful tools to chip away at the cost barrier.

benton logo

The Internet Discussion We're Not Having

Our media are letting us down. From their mostly vapid coverage of the 2016 Presidential campaign on television to the paucity of new information on the Internet’s major “news” sites, the communications ecosystem is failing our democracy. It’s a failure that has already cost us dearly and a breakdown that will only get worse until we recognize and confront the damage that has been done. Sadly, amid the incessant hurling of personal broadsides and character assassination from many of the candidates, and the ubiquitous replay of sordid electioneering masquerading as “breaking news” on just about every channel, real coverage of issues gets the hindmost.

benton logo

Decreasing numbers, increasing problems: Non-users have more barriers to Internet adoption to overcome than ever before

Over the past 20 years, the proportion of Internet users has continuously increased. According to the latest Pew Research Center data, 84 percent of US citizens were online in 2015. Only 16 percent of the respondents identified themselves as non-users, i.e. people who do not use the Internet. This stands in stark contrast to the numbers of non-users only 10 years ago (around 30 percent in 2006) and 20 years ago (77 percent in 1996). This trend leads many people to assume that non-users are a phenomenon of the past and that soon everyone will be online in some way or another. However, looking at the shrinking group of non-users more closely, it becomes apparent quickly that those who have not made the move online are facing increasing problems and barriers to overcome.

benton logo

Telecom Policy Roars Into March

The Senate Commerce Committee convened a Federal Communications Commission oversight hearing on March 2 which included testimony from each of the five FCC commissioners. On Monday, American and European officials released details on the new trans-Atlantic data transfer agreement, known as the E.U.-U.S. Privacy Shield. On March 3, the Senate Commerce Committee marked up and approved the MOBILE Now Act (S. 2555), a bill aimed to free up up more valuable spectrum for wireless devices.

benton logo

Lifeline Reform Reaches the Home Stretch

The Federal Communications Commission is likely to vote on its Lifeline reform proceeding at its March 31 public meeting, including its plans to expand Lifeline from supporting only voice telephone service to include broadband Internet access. Because I previously delved into the history of the Lifeline program since its inception during the Reagan Administration, this post will review the policy justification for Lifeline and then focus on some of the specific issues the FCC is likely to consider.

benton logo

A New Era of Broadband Deployment

The city of Huntsville, Alabama became the next Google Fiber city. Huntsville will own the fiber network and will lease it to Google. For most other Google Fiber cities, Google has built the fiber network from scratch. With the Huntsville partnership, Google is demonstrating its willingness to offer its services over a network it doesn’t own -- and that’s a game changer.

benton logo

Digital Literacy and Inclusion: “We Are All In It Together”

All of the organizations I studied for my recent Benton Foundation report recognize that digital literacy, the ability to navigate the Internet, is key to meaningful broadband adoption. But they took different approaches to ensuring their clients have the skills needed to make use of broadband. Computer classes have traditionally been a popular way to provide digital literacy training. More recently, digital inclusion organizations have embraced one-on-one, personalized training approaches for community members in order to be relevant to each person’s everyday life experiences. In addition, several organizations noted that digital literacy is needed and requested by all, regardless of income.

benton logo

How Technology Is Influencing Your Vote

Communications technology is playing a tremendous role in the 2016 election, from debate coverage and the influence of social media to “voter surveillance” in campaigning. What voices are being amplified in this environment? And what does this mean to those who have not adopted these technologies?

benton logo

Love is in the Air: President Obama Proposes (a Budget) and a Sentimental Anniversary

President Barack Obama released the final budget proposal of his presidency on February 9, a $4 trillion plan for the 2017 fiscal year, which starts October 1. Just over one-quarter of the $4 trillion budget is so-called discretionary spending for domestic and military programs that the President and Congress dicker over each year. The rest is for mandatory spending, chiefly interest on the federal debt and the Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid benefits that are expanding automatically as the population ages. So how does the budget proposal affect communications policy? Here’s a breakdown.

benton logo

Bringing Broadband to Digital Deserts

To go from desert to oasis, you need water. To go from digital desert to oasis of opportunity, we need broadband.

benton logo

Happy 20th Anniversary, Telecommunications Act

I love anniversaries. They give us a chance to review where we’ve been – and recommit to our goals. Today is one of those days. After many, many years of debate about how to best modernize U.S. telecommunications law, on February 8, 1996, President Bill Clinton signed the Telecommunications Act of 1996 into law at the Library of Congress. The venue was no accident: it was symbolic of the information, knowledge and learning that the Act would help extend throughout the country.

benton logo

Updates on Broadband Subsidies, and a New Safe Harbor Deal

Robbie’s Round-Up for the week of February 1-5, 2016
Progress was made in regards to broadband subsidies for those with low income. Highlights include a New America Event discussing the report "Opportunity for All?" and Google announcing a Google Fiber initiative to connect those with low income in public housing.
Also this week, a new U.S.-E.U. safe harbor deal.

benton logo

Data Caps and Vulnerable Populations

Today, most Internet service providers have implemented some form of a data cap. These caps limit the amount of access a consumer has to data before they are charged surplus fees or cut off from the network. Although there is little clarity as to why such caps are necessary, their unintended consequences could be disastrous for vulnerable populations. There are many well-documented economic and competitive concerns about data caps. Caps are not popular with consumers, nor are they an effective means of managing network congestion. In fact, when one Comcast engineer was asked why the company’s caps had been set at current levels he responded that he had “no idea,” as he was involved only in the technological aspects of the company, not “business policy.” This open admission that there is no technological necessity for data caps goes to show that ISPs’ decisions to implement caps is primarily driven by profit.

benton logo

The Scariest Cable Merger Nobody In Washington Is Talking About

When Comcast tried to merge with Time Warner Cable last year, reaction was swift and negative. Not many people liked the idea of America’s largest and least loved cable company getting any bigger; the deal collapsed after hundreds of thousands of Americans spoke out and federal regulators signaled that they would not let it go forward. Big Cable should have gotten the message. But here we are just a year later with a new cable mega-merger in the works. This time, Charter Communications wants to snatch up Time Warner Cable along with Bright House Networks.

benton logo

Sisyphus, We’re Still Waiting

A year and a half ago, this blog discussed the “Sisyphean Task” imposed upon the Federal Communications Commission to engage in a never-ending review of its broadcast ownership rules. If you are wondering what has happened since then, the answer is “very little,” in large part because of the odd lassitude of a federal appeals court. This is going to change in the coming months.

benton logo

There’s No Debating It: Broadband’s Shaky Progress; Cruz’s Title II Misinformation; and Freeing the Set-Top Box

The Jan 8 edition of the Round-up, “Broadband Research and Digital Inclusion” discussed the Federal Communications Commission’s 2016 Broadband Report, which was adopted (but not released) at the FCC's Open Meeting on Jan 28. The FCC’s 2016 Broadband Progress Report concludes that broadband is not being deployed to all Americans in a reasonable and timely fashion.
Presidential candidate Sen Ted Cruz (R-TX), during a campaign stop in New Hampshire, blasted the Federal Communications Commission’s Open Internet Order and the decision to regulate broadband networks under Title II of the Communications Act.
The ongoing battle between presidential candidate Donald Trump and Fox News heated up again this week.
Chairman Wheeler proposed Set-Top Box rules.

benton logo

Internet Privacy, FreeBee, and the Public Cloud

More than 50 digital rights and consumer groups, including the Benton Foundation, put pressure on the Federal Communications Commission to start drafting Internet privacy rules “as quickly as possible.” The Federal Communications Commission recently had “productive” discussions with Comcast and T-Mobile about whether their offerings of data cap exemptions conflict with the goals of network neutrality. Microsoft pledged to donate $1 billion in cloud services to nonprofits and university researchers over the next three years, as the company updates its philanthropic initiatives to reflect shifts in technology.

Syndicate content