Sunday, April 17, 2016

Archive Post: Low-Income and The Internet: A Case Study

Reader note: This is an Archive Post from 2010, however it is still just as relevant today and it was then. I have updated the post, with either more commentary or updated links please let me know if I missed anything.

A case study released by the Social Science Research Counsel (SSRC) on Broadband Adoption in Low-Income Communities. This Study was Commissioned by the Federal Communication Commission (FCC) as part of their study to Formulate the National Broadband plan. This Study is a very interesting read, on how the Low-Income Community views the need for Broadband and what factors are really keeping it out of the home.

Now before I go any further, I am going define a few terms for you. Currently any Internet Connection that is DSL (Digital Subscriber Line), or that is Cable Internet is commonly considered to be Broadband Internet or Broadband for short. America is vastly behind other countries when it comes to broadband because the Cable Industry is always trying to find ways to charge people more money for it.

The National Broadband Plan is defined as follows from Broadband.gov.
The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (Recovery Act) was signed into law on February 17, 2009. The Broadband Initiatives funded in the Act are intended to accelerate broadband deployment across the United States. The Recovery Act authorizes the FCC to create a National Broadband Plan, that “shall seek to ensure that all people of the United States have access to broadband capability and shall establish benchmarks for meeting that goal. 
The National Broadband Plan was one of the first Initiatives that President Obama acted on when he was historically elected in 2008.

Now I find it very interesting that the FCC was interested in Broadband adoption among the Low-Income. So interested in fact that they commissioned this study to get a better understanding of the need for better broadband access for those who are Low-Income. And how Having better access to the internet could help them to achieve a better education and even better a better job.

One of the more interesting findings in this study was that price wasn't the only barrier keeping Low-Income Families from getting and/or keeping broadband services in the home. Another Finding was that most, if not all, of the respondents understood the growing importance of having a Broadband connection in the home. Both for school age children (k-12), and as well as the educational and employment opportunities that are available to the Broadband connected home.

Economic Marginalization as well as several other factors, such as Lack of understand, and Language barriers, seem to have a lot to do with why there isn't a computer let alone a Broadband connection in the home. Although price is a factor to a large majority of Low-Income families. In fact just this last week FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn Gave a scathing tongue lashing to whole of the Telecommunications Industry about Pricing and Competition among providers.

The Ars Technica post printed these comments from Commissioner Clyburn:

"When prices rise across the industry, and where there are only a limited number of players in the game, we have to ask ourselves whether there is any meaningful competition in the marketplace," Clyburn declared in a public statement. "Moreover, when executives from major broadband providers indicate that they will only roll out faster speeds in the few markets where they have competition, our fears about whether meaningful competition exists should grow." "Across-the-board price increases," she added, "especially on those who can least afford it, should raise a red flag for the Commission."
With Comments like that from a member of the FCC, you can see why the cost of having a Broadband connection, and even Broadband availability is a real issue for Low-Income Families and Individuals. It's also why personally I have felt they should be allowed to directly compete against each other in all the markets. However that is a post for another day.

So Let us know what you think, Leave a comment, or chat me up on Twitter about this Subject.