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FCC data exaggerates broadband access on tribal lands

A new report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) has found that Broadband access in tribal areas is likely even worse than previously thought because Federal Communications Commission data overstates deployment. Now it seems like we need to be worried about government data going away AND the veracity of government data.

“BROADBAND INTERNET: FCC’s Data Overstate Access on Tribal Lands”. GAO-18-630. September 2018.

The GAO report describes problems with the FCC’s Form 477 data collection, in which Internet providers submit deployment data to the commission twice a year.

The FCC provides subsidies to carriers to deploy broadband in areas where access is limited, such as through the Connect America Fund. Inaccurate data “could affect FCC’s funding decisions and the ability of tribal lands to access broadband in the future,” the GAO wrote.

“[The] FCC considers broadband to be ‘available’ for an entire census block if the provider could serve at least one location in the census block. This leads to overstatements of service for specific locations like tribal lands,” the GAO wrote.

Moreover, the “FCC does not collect information on several factors—such as affordability, quality, and denials of service—that FCC and tribal stakeholders stated can affect the extent to which Americans living on tribal lands can access broadband services,” the GAO wrote.

The FCC also “does not have a formal process to obtain tribal input on the accuracy of provider-submitted broadband data,” the report said. About half of tribal stakeholders interviewed by the GAO said it’s difficult to get information about broadband deployment directly from providers.

via FCC data exaggerates broadband access on tribal lands | Ars Technica.

Trump FCC rescinds and revokes reports and actions

On Friday February 3, 2017, the FCC rescinded and revoked orders and reports that had been issued late in the Obama administration. Some of the reports can be found under transition.fcc.gov, but it is not clear if there are links to them from fcc.gov or if they will remain available to the public.

The Benton Foundation devoted a special issue of Benton’s Headlines to a list of links to stories about the Friday actions. See the entire list of links here: BENTON’S COMMUNICATIONS-RELATED HEADLINES (February 5, 2017).

Some of the stories covered include

  • The FCC paper on Cybersecurity Risk Reduction, which set cybersecurity as a top priority for the Commission, has been set aside and rescinded the White Paper and any and all guidance, determinations, and conclusions contained therein. “The White Paper will have no legal or other effect or meaning going forward.” The white paper said:

    The rapid growth of network-connected consumer devices creates particular cybersecurity challenges. The Commission’s oversight of our country’s privately owned and managed communications networks is an important component of the larger effort to protect critical communications infrastructure and the American public from malicious cyber actors.

    The white paper is available on an FCC transition website: Cybersecurity Risk Reduction Federal Communications Commission, Public Safety & Homeland Security Bureau David Simpson, January 18, 2017

  • Retracted the E-rate Modernization Progress Report saying that the report will have no legal or other effect or meaning going forward. The E‐rate program helps ensure that virtually all schools and libraries are able to connect to the Internet. The report is available on an FCC transition web site: E‐rate Modernization Progress Report From Jon Wilkins (Jan 18, 2017).

  • The Commission stopped its review of wireless carriers that exclude their own video-streaming services from customers’ usage caps.
  • FCC handcuffs lifeline program telling nine companies they won’t be allowed to participate in a federal program meant to help them provide affordable Internet access to low-income consumers — weeks after those companies had been given the green light.
  • New FCC Chairman Releases a Friday-Afternoon Flurry of Anti-Consumer Items Freepress.
  • Trump’s F.C.C. Pick Quickly Targets Net Neutrality Rules New York Times

Urban Poor Fear Being Left Behind In Digital Age

“Nationwide, 40 percent of households with annual incomes below $20,000 (below the poverty line for a family of four) have broadband access at home, while 93 percent of households with incomes exceeding $75,000 have high-speed Internet, according to a 2010 Federal Communications Commission survey.”

Hat tip to Kevin Taglang!

New Government Report Looks at Broadband Adoption in U.S. and Shows Digital Divide Persists

From the NTIA Blog:

The Economics and Statistics Administration (ESA) and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) released a report today entitled Exploring the Digital Nation: Computer and Internet Use at Home (PDF). This report investigates broadband Internet use in the United States and finds that disparities continue to exist in broadband Internet adoption among demographic and geographic groups. The report also delves into the reasons why households have not adopted broadband Internet.

Broadband internet adoption has increased substantially in only a few years, rising to 68% of households in 2010 from only 51% of households three years earlier and from 64% in 2009, the last time ESA and NTIA looked at these issues.

While this points to progress, a digital divide still exists between different racial and ethnic groups and between urban and rural areas in the United States. Broadband adoption rates varied substantially between different racial and ethnic groups, with 81% of Asian and 72% of White households having broadband Internet access, compared to only 55% and 57% of Black and Hispanic households. The urban-rural divide is also wide, with 70% of urban households having broadband Internet access compared to only 57% of rural households. Socio-economic differences, such as income and education, explain much – but not all – of this divide.

Here is what we know: Households that do not subscribe to any Internet service—dial-up or broadband —cited as the main reasons a lack of need or interest (47%); lack of affordability (24%); and an inadequate computer (15%). However, 27% of dial-up users — a rapidly declining group of users — indicated that they did not have broadband internet access service in their area.

Access the Full Text Report (72 Pages; PDF)

From an NTIA News Release:

Overall

  • Sixty-eight percent of American households used broadband Internet in 2010, up from 64 percent in 2009. Only three percent of households relied on dial-up access to the Internet in 2010, down from five percent in 2009. Another nine percent of households had people who accessed the Internet only outside of the home.
  • All told, approximately 80 percent of American households had at least one Internet user, whether inside or outside the home and regardless of technology type used to access the Internet.
  • Cable modems and DSL were the leading broadband technologies for home Internet adoption, with 32 percent and 23 percent of households, respectively, using these services.

Differences in Household Broadband Adoption

  • Households with lower incomes and less education, as well as Blacks, Hispanics, people with disabilities, and rural residents, were less likely to have Internet service at home.
  • Eighty-one percent of Asian households and 72 percent of White households had broadband at home, compared to 57 percent of Hispanic households and 55 percent of Black households.
  • Seventy percent of urban households had broadband at home, compared to 57 percent of rural households.
  • Households with school-age children were more likely to have broadband at home (78 percent) than the national rate. Older householders, particularly those ages 65 and older (45 percent), were less likely to have broadband at home.
  • Less than half (43 percent) of households with annual incomes below $25,000 had broadband access at home, while 93 percent of households with incomes exceeding $100,000 had broadband.
  • Average broadband adoption in 2010 varied by state from about half (52 percent) of all households to 80 percent.

Role of Socio-Economic Factors

  • Socio-economic differences do not explain the entire broadband adoption gap. For example, after accounting for socio-economic and geographic factors, Black and Hispanic households still lag White households in broadband adoption by 11 percentage points, though the gap between Asian and White households disappears.
  • After accounting for socio-economic and demographic factors, rural households still lag urban households in broadband adoption by five percentage points.
  • In contrast, differences in socio-economic characteristics do explain a substantial portion but not all of the broadband adoption lag among people with disabilities.

Reasons for Not Subscribing to Broadband at Home

  • The main reasons cited for not having Internet access at home were a lack of interest or need (47 percent), the expense (24 percent), and the lack of an adequate computer (15 percent).
  • Not surprisingly, individuals without broadband service at home relied on locations such as public libraries (20 percent) or other people’s houses (12 percent) to go online.

Long-term Trends in Internet and Computer Use

  • Between 2001 and 2010, broadband Internet use at home, regardless of technology type, rose from 9 percent to 68 percent of households.
  • Between 1997 and 2010, Internet use among households, regardless of technology type, rose from 19 percent to 71 percent.
  • More than three quarters (77 percent) of American households had a computer at home in 2010, up from 62 percent in 2003.

Access the Full Text Report (72 Pages; PDF)

Commerce Department unveils a national broadband inventory map

The National Broadband Map is a tool to search, analyze and map broadband availability across the United States. Created and maintained by the NTIA, in collaboration with the FCC, and in partnership with 50 states, five territories and the District of Columbia.

See also: Are You Being Served? National Broadband Map Going Live Today, By Chloe Albanesius, PC Magazine (February 17, 2011).

Users can search by address, view data on a map, or use other interactive tools to compare broadband across various geographies, such as states, counties or congressional districts.

…”The National Broadband Map shows there are still too many people and community institutions lacking the level of broadband service needed to fully participate in the Internet economy. We are pleased to see the increase in broadband adoption last year, particularly in light of the difficult economic environment, but a digital divide remains,” [Larry] Strickling [assistant secretary of the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA)] said in a statement.

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