New Resource on Broadband Adoption and Bridging the Digital Divide

January 9, 2013

By Julia Pulidindi

The National League of Cities joined together with ICF International to produce “Closing the Digital Divide: Promoting Broadband Adoption Among Underserved Populations,” a paper exploring the challenges and benefits of broadband adoption.

The recent surge of public investment in information technology has helped propel the premise that access to broadband can help promote local and national economic development.  Broadband, which essentially is high-speed Internet servicehas huge implications for education, competition and innovation a few factors which point to a robust and thriving economy. 

According to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), in 2011 the United States ranked 15 among 30 developed and developing nations in deploying broadband services.  This is a huge departure from where the U.S. stood in the 1990s when it was one of the leaders in providing broadband access, underscoring the fact that the U.S. is not as globally competitive as it once was.   

However, it is not just an issue of providing access. Access to broadband does not always imply adoption (or use) of it.  There is a huge chunk of the population that do not have access to broadband (26 million people who live primarily in rural areas). Additionally, about a third of all Americansmany of whom do have accessdo not subscribe to it, according to a 2011 Federal Communications Commission report.  This is most likely due to high costs, low digital literacy rates, privacy concerns and a lack of understanding of the personal and economic benefits access to broadband can provide.

Efforts are being made at all levels of government to address these challenges.  We are seeing funding opportunities at the federal level, technical assistance resources at the state level and targeted digital literacy programs being offered at the local level.  The paper features specific examples of each of these efforts and also notes  hallmarks of successful initiatives.  This paper is an effective tool for local leaders who face broadband adoption challenges in their communities and are looking for guidance on how to address these needs. 

Details: For more information about this paper or NLC’s work on broadband adoption, please contact Julia Pulidindi at (202) 626-3176 or email pulidindi@nlc.org.