FCC and Broadband Adoption

Angela Siefer /

The Federal Communications Commission is hosting Broadband Summit: Broadband Adoption and Usage - What Have We Learned? on February 7, 2013 in Washington DC.  The FCC is still creating the agenda but I highly recommend registering and making your travel arrangements now. Registration is free but you need to email Susan Fisenne with your name and affiliation. susan.fisenne@fcc.gov

Broadband adoption is the portion of digital inclusion that tackles the cost of internet service, the cost of a home computer, the relevance of the internet, and public computer access options. The federal agency spending the most time and resources toward supporting broadband adoption is the National Telecommunications and information Administration (NTIA) at the Department of Commerce. NTIA is the home of BTOP (Broadband Technology Opportunities Program).

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) mostly looks at broadband adoption from the perspective of how broadband providers can increase subscribership.

The FCC created Connect2Compete in partnership with OneEconomy to support and encourage cable companies providing discounted broadband service. C2C is now an independent 501(c)3 nonprofit. C2C created a process (online and via phone) for qualified families to apply for discounted broadband (and a low cost computer). Where the service is available depends upon the participation of local cable broadband providers.  

On December 19, 2012, the FCC announced the selection of 14 broadband adoption Lifeline pilot projects. Noteworthy for those of us who care about broadband adoption but are not broadband service providers:

  • The FCC is only funding the discounted or subsidized broadband service fees. All other costs including digital literacy or home computers are not covered.
  • Only Eligible Telecommunication Carriers (ETCs) were eligible to apply. Many partnered with experienced broadband adoption community-based organizations. The grants are not clear who is covering the costs of digital literacy training or home computers.
  • All funded projects include a research component. The FCC is most interested in learning “which variations in the broadband service offerings result in higher adoption rates among low-income consumers. We have selected a diversity of projects that will study the effects of varying subsidy amounts, end-user charges, access to digital literacy, data usage limits, choices for broadband speed, access to equipment and other important variables affecting broadband adoption."

As one of only two federal agencies working on broadband adoption, it is important that those in the field working on broadband adoption attend the FCC Broadband Adoption Summit. Also note worthy is that there are currently no other national events planned focused upon broadband adoption.

Attend. Be seen and be heard.