Category Archives: Broadband Adoption

Joining Boston’s Digital Equity Fund Council

The City of Boston just announced their new Digital Equity Fund. This initiative will be overseen by the Mayor’s Department of Innovation & Technology. I am honored to be joining the advisory board along with the following people: Alessandra Brown, Director, Roxbury Innovation Center; Turahn Dorsey, Chief of Education, City of Boston: Trinh Nguyen, Director of Workforce Development, City of Boston; and Sasha Costanza-Chock, Associate Professor of Civic Media, Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Here is a snippet from today’s press release:

“Mayor Martin J. Walsh today announced the creation of a $35,000 Digital Equity Fund, which will support the City’s goal of ensuring all residents have equal access to digital services. The Digital Equity Fund will provide support to community-based organizations that help Boston residents fully connect and participate in today’s media and information landscape. ‘A more connected Boston is a more equitable City, a more innovative City and a more prosperous City,’ said Mayor Walsh. ‘This grant program will allow more residents to connect digitally, and will encourage residents to grow their digital skills while increasing access to information.’

The Digital Equity Fund will explore ways to build individual and community capacity to:

  • Use the Internet, digital skills, and digital tools to pursue professional, educational, and civic endeavors;
  • Engage with the Internet safely and securely;
  • Develop needs-responsive, community driven digital skills building opportunities;
  • Increase broadband adoption among the roughly 1 in 5 Bostonians who do not subscribe to this service in the home.

In 2017, Boston will award one grant of $35,000 or up to two grants up to $17,500 each to nonprofit organizations that promote digital equity. By providing seed funding, the City hopes to identify promising strategies that can attract outside funding and further create a City where everyone has the tools and skills they need to succeed in the 21st century.”

Read the full press release here.

FCC Strategies and Recommendations for Promoting Digital Inclusion

On January 11, 2017, the Federal Communications Commission’s Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau released a new report titled “Strategies and Recommendations for Promoting Digital Inclusion.” As the introduction explains,

With this plan, several of the following goals laid out in the 2016 Lifeline Modernization Order are or can be realized. First, this plan marks another step in the Commission’s efforts to better understand non-price barriers to digital inclusion and to facilitate existing and forthcoming efforts addressing them…Second, this plan explores how the Bureau can engage consumer groups, community groups, philanthropic organizations, local governments, and corporations to increase broadband adoption and digital literacy among those who remain offline…Finally, we suggest policy innovations that make the broadband marketplace more transparent and affordable for low-income households and more amendable to promoting digital inclusion in addition to broadband access and adoption.

I am honored to have played a small role in helping to inform the FCC’s final report and recommendations with many thanks to the Benton Foundation, the National Digital Inclusion Alliance, as well as the many community-based organizations, individuals, and families across the country who I had the privilege to visit with during my research in 2015.

Joining the Berkman Klein Center at Harvard University

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I am absolutely thrilled to announce that I will be joining the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University as a faculty associate for the 2016-2017 academic year. During this time, I hope to extend my research and connect with new colleagues focused at the intersection of public libraries, digital inclusion, and broadband adoption.

Here’s a snippet from the Berkman Klein Center’s press release:

The class of fellows will primarily work in Cambridge, Massachusetts, alongside Berkman Klein faculty, students, and staff, as a vibrant community of research and practice. Honoring the networked ethos at the heart of the Center, faculty associates and affiliates from institutions the world over will actively participate as well. These relationships, as well as the countless fruitful engagements with alumni, partners, interns, and other colleagues, are fundamental to the Berkman Klein Center’s work and identity, and serve to increase the capacity of the field and generate opportunities for lasting impact.

Investigating Rural Library Hotspot Lending Programs

I am excited to announce that my colleagues, Dr. Sharon Strover (University of Texas at Austin), Dr. Brian Whitacre (Oklahoma State University) and I received a $496,586 grant from the U.S. Institute of Museum and Library Services for our research project, titled “At the Edges of the National Digital Platform: Rural Library Hotspot Lending Programs.”

Here’s the description of the project from the IMLS website:

Investigators at the University of Texas at Austin, in partnership with researchers at the University of Oklahoma and Oklahoma State University, will use their research grant to examine how rural libraries address the challenges of Internet connectivity with hotspot lending programs. The project will gather qualitative and quantitative data from 24 rural libraries with hotspot lending program experience, focusing on the librarians involved with the program, the users of the program, local community stakeholders, and non-users. Research outcomes will address the role of rural libraries in local information ecosystems, the impact of hotspot lending programs on users’ quality of life and digital literacy, community outcomes of these programs, and practical requirements for offering hotspot lending programs. Deliverables for the project include a guidelines document on program implementation, a short report on rural Internet connectivity and libraries, and a final research report.

New Report: Digital Inclusion and Meaningful Broadband Adoption Initiatives

benton_report_coverI am thrilled to announce the release of my new report for the Benton Foundation, titled “Digital Inclusion and Meaningful Broadband Adoption Initiatives.” The executive summary and a link to the full report are available on the Benton Foundation’s website.

Research for the report began late last July, when I started my travels across the US to look at how nonprofit organizations are helping individuals and families gain access to low-cost broadband and digital literacy training. Broadband adoption continues to be a significant problem in the US. The Pew Research Center recently reported that only 67% of Americans have broadband Internet service at home (down from 70% in 2013). In analyzing the data, with research assistance from Aileen Barton at the University of Oklahoma School of Library and Information Studies, I discovered the following four digital inclusion activities were necessary for helping low-income individuals and families to adopt broadband in ways that were most appropriate to their personal needs and contexts:

  1. Providing low-cost broadband;
  2. Connecting digital literacy training with relevant content and services;
  3. Making low-cost computers available; and
  4. Operating public access computing centers.

The goal of the report is to help policymakers at the local, state, and federal levels, as well as researchers, practitioners, and other key stakeholders, gain a deeper understanding of how digital inclusion organizations and their community partners can be successful in their efforts to promote meaningful broadband adoption.

I am extremely thankful to the following people who helped make this report possible, including: Aileen Barton (University of Oklahoma School of Library and Information Studies), Jane Blackwood (Axiom Training & Education Center), Juanita Budd (Austin Free-Net), Greta Byrum (Resilient Communities Program at New America), Bill Callahan (Connect Your Community 2.0), Jill Castek (Portland State University), Susan Corbett (Axiom Technologies), Dharma Dailey (University of Washington), Colleen Dixon (Free Geek), Cindy Gibbon (Multnomah County Library), Wanda Davis (Ashbury Senior Community Computer Center), Michael Liimatta (US Dept. of HUD, previously Connecting for Good), Drew Pizzolato (Portland State University), Diana Rodriguez (Youth Policy Institute), Angela Siefer (National Digital Inclusion Alliance), Casey Sorensen (PCs for People), and Kevin Taglang (Benton Foundation).

Most importantly, I want to thank all of the individuals and families across the country who shared their broadband experiences with me and provided their recommendations (included in this report) to policymakers at the Federal Communications Commission, the White House, and in Congress, who are working on solutions to the problems facing low-income Americans in gaining affordable and reliable access to broadband.

New Article Published in Government Information Quarterly

Brian Whitacre (Oklahoma State University) and I have a new article in Government Information Quarterly, which describes our findings from a recent study on public libraries and broadband adoption.  Unfortunately, the paper is behind a paywall.  But you can read about the study and its findings in a new piece that we have up on Daily Yonder.

Here’s the abstract from the article below:

“Providing access to computers with high-speed Internet connectivity is a central mission of public libraries in the United States. One pertinent, currently unanswered question is whether library Internet access leads to increasing residential broadband adoption rates in the communities that the libraries serve. This paper uses simple county-level regression analysis to document a positive association between a higher number of libraries and household broadband adoption rates as of 2013—but only in rural areas. This correlation does not imply causation, however. A propensity score matching technique is used to demonstrate that counties with libraries that aggressively increased their number of Internet-accessible computers between 2008 and 2012 did not see measurably higher increases in their rates of residential broadband adoption. These findings lend themselves to future research questions including how to appropriately measure broadband ‘adoption’ outside of the home and methods for engaging library patrons that ultimately encourage residential broadband adoption.”