A recent Washington Post article reported that almost 40 percent of Americans do not have high-speed Internet access at home.
What is most interesting about the 40 percent statistic is that, even in places where broadband is available, not everyone subscribes to it. While some urban households just don’t have the adequate computer components, a whopping 38 percent say they just don’t need it or are not interested. Twenty-six percent say it’s a cost issue. That is over 50 percent of people who have access to broadband and choose to not take it. This contrasts greatly with rural areas where the issue is more a lack of availability.
Both are serious concerns for this country. For those rural areas, we need a better technological infrastructure in place to get our citizens “online.” It’s an equity issue and it’s an economic development issue. And for those who have it but just don’t use it, it’s a matter of showing them what they could do with access in their homes.
Larry Strickling, head of the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), said showing people “what they are missing” is what will really encourage potential users. It’s not just a tool for entertainment and to communicate with people, but a tool to help increase professional and academic development, access to jobs, and information that is otherwise difficult to obtain.
FCC chairman Julius Genachowski admits that despite some of the financial and technological advances that have been made, the United States’ broadband system is still not as vibrant and it could be. In 2008, the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development ranked the United States in 24th place in broadband speeds, whereas countries like Japan and Korea fared much better. Congress and the Administration are focusing some of their discussions on connection speeds, which I think is valid. We have to have an idea of what to work towards. But most people don’t really care about that now. What they care about is the value of a tool that makes getting information easier. After that, they may or may not pay more for how fast they can get that information. But until then, if they don’t know what they are missing, they just don’t know.