BROADBAND COMMUNITIES is the leading source of information on digital and broadband technologies for buildings and communities. Our editorial aims to accelerate the deployment of Fiber-To-The-Home and Fiber-To-The-Premises.
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96 | BROADBAND COMMUNITIES | www.broadbandcommunities.com | NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2016 BROADBAND ADOPTION Low-income families are more likely to have broadband at home if they have school-age children and if they are eligible for discounted broadband plans. Bridging the Digital Divide Addressing the digital divide requires understanding all the reasons a low-income family might be unable to adopt and use the internet. By Michael Liimatta / Digital Inclusion Consultant D igital inclusion is one of the most pressing social justice issues in the United States. ough internet access is no longer a luxury but a daily necessity, more than one-quarter of U.S. homes are not connected. is is especially unfortunate for school-age children who live in low-income families. Being able to get online at home is absolutely essential for academic success from grade school through college. In addition, it is the way to find employment, get career training and access a host of other services that can help underresourced families become financially stable and upwardly mobile. Fortunately, digital inclusion is beginning to receive more attention at the local, state and federal government levels. However, the digital divide will not be tackled easily, and the appropriate outreach to those on the wrong side of the divide varies from situation to situation. Providing in-home access for free or at an affordable price is a simple solution for some families, but to introduce others to the online world, serious marketing campaigns and labor- intensive digital training are required. Don't assume that every low-income family, or even every low-income family with school- age children, relates to technology, computers and the internet in the same way. Effective digital inclusion efforts must recognize at least four subsets within this population, each with its own unique set of needs. EARLY ADOPTERS Several national studies indicate that low- income families with school-age children have a higher rate of broadband adoption than other low-income families; approximately half of them can access the internet at home. e cities that have the highest adoption rates are those in which discounted internet plans have been offered for a number of years. Such plans include Comcast's Internet Essentials, started in 2011, and Cox's Connect2Compete, which has been around since 2012. Both Comcast and Cox have done extensive outreach in the public schools, which is how most of these families first learned of their offers. However, discounted plans are not available everywhere. Even in cities where they are offered, some low-income families live in buildings that do not have the necessary infrastructure in place to get connected. Still others make great sacrifices to pay market rate for internet subscriptions so their children can get online. Others rely solely on expensive smartphone data plans to connect their computers. ough these early adopters may be currently connected, they should not be overlooked by digital inclusion efforts. Many