How can Broadband Services Benefit Consumers?

Wednesday's second National Broadband Plan workshop on adoption and use focused on ways in which broadband services can benefit consumers, particularly those in groups that historically have been less likely to adopt or utilize broadband. Brian David, the FCC's Omnibus Broadband Initiative Adoption and Usage Director, led the session which also included Jessica Zufolo, Deputy Administrator of the Rural Utilities Service at the Department of Agriculture (USDA); Dr. Francine Jefferson, Evaluation Specialist for the Technology Opportunities Program at the Department of Commerce's National Telecommunications and Information Administration; Luke Tate, aSpecial Assistant to the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development (HUD); and a panel of experts. FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn was also in attendance.

Skype's Staci Pies spoke about the virtuous cycle created by a policy environment which balances collaboration between device makers, software providers and network operators.'s Craig Settles talked about what broadband and a successful National Broadband Plan can mean for small businesses. He said broadband opens new markets, increases local opportunities and improves operations. He said a successful plan will reflect the needs of these businesses, will allow for evolution of the technology used and should allow local influence on the plan's execution. He said policymakers will know if the National Broadband Plan is successful if broadband services sell easily, new jobs and businesses are created, and especially if there's an increase in the number of home-based businesses.

Dr. Sharon Strover of the University of Texas focused on people in rural areas. She said that technology is a driver, not a corrective. She noted the need for:

  • Access -- support for broadband infrastructure deployment is only a start; include mobile access in plans; include accountability in grants/support
  • Targeted Service support -- e-government, small business innovation, education, health
  • Training -- IT skills through schools, community centers, community colleges; support systems

Dr. Nicol Turner-Lee, a Vice President at the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, highlighted the concerns of adoption and use rates for African-Americans which lag behind other demographics. She said that 2007 research found that the relevance of the Internet and the content found was a major hurdle for adoption. She said price of broadband services compounds the problem.

Valerie Fast Horse, the director of information technology for the Coeur d'Alene tribe, addressed the concerns of people living in Tribal Nations.

By Kevin Taglang.