I am thrilled to be able to share the draft report discussed today at the Broadband Task Force meeting. The final iteration of the report will be the annual report sent to DEED from the Task Force and includes recommendations for legislators and others. Much of what was recommended last year was put into motion based on the report – and with help from a myriad of supporters. So it is a powerful document.

Most of the meeting was spent going through the report. Hopefully the notes below will make sense – generally the remarks are pretty detailed. BUT there were a couple of higher level discussions that arose from the reading of the report.

Task members realized that there was a need to talk about the changing landscape for broadband – much of this revolved around affordability and wireless access. Wireless broadband increases ubiquity and offers mobility but the pricing structure can make it a much less practical solution for lower income households. Ironically, the “startup” fee for wireless access (which might be a smartphone versus a laptop) is lower with wireless, which adds another difficult dimension.

Also there seems to be general agreement that the state will not reach the broadband goals in 2015. The question is – so then what? Should the Task Force make recommendation for updated goals or wait until the Legislature asked for recommendations on updated goals. It seems as if they will wait until the request comes to make the recommendation.

Aside from the report we also learned that the Office of Broadband Development added staff (congrats Jane Leonard) and received 40 applications for grant funding from the Border to Border Broadband Fund. Below is the video update from the OBD…

Read More…

I want to thank the folks at WideOpen Networks for the heads up on a recent report, Why is Internet still slow and expensive in the US? It’s a quick look at six factors they have determined are keeping costs high in the United States:

1) Current providers have been granted a near monopoly.
2) There is little incentive for better service
3) Deployed technology is old and cannot be cost effectively upgraded.
4) The is no national strategy to bring true “big broadband” to our homes.
5) Broadband is actually infrastructure.
6) People do not understand true big broadband and its economic benefits.

Some of these reasons are technical, some are financial, some are political. The question is who can do what to minimize these reason not to offer bigger, better broadband for cheaper to the point that people get better service.


I learned at the FTTH Council meeting in Minneapolis in September that fiber is the most cost effective long term solution. So to the untrained eye it seems like it’s a matter of making the most of the technology in place until you have the money, time or incentive to go with fiber. Kind of like car repair. Now that being said, I think we’re seeing strides made here with wireless options. And the equipment for cable, wireless and fiber seems to be getting better. But if we’re looking at ubiquitous, serious broadband – it’s a matter of biding time until fiber makes sense. Building a market and demand with the technology at hand but building. There will always be a place for wireless and other options – ubiquitous fiber alone doesn’t bring mobility.

Policy Makers

Policy makers can help with 1, 4 and 5 because we’re talking about definition and vision and how they impact funding from government resources (State, USDA, tax implications). I’ve long thought it would be helpful for the policy makers to start with a map that only looks at technology and infrastructure. Maybe we need two maps – one includes privately owned legacy networks and one doesn’t. Then have some of the greatest networking mind look at the map and figure out what it would take from a purely technology perspective to get us ubiquitous broadband. Forget about costs and ownership – just what would make the most sense.

Once we have the dream network on paper – it’s a matter of looking at how to get there. To some degree I think Scott County must have gone through some process like that to decide to build their own fiber ring rather than rent. I know the prediction (back in 2007) was a $3.5 million investment for a $500,000 annual saving and I think those numbers weren’t far off the mark!

The answer may not be a public network for every community. I’m sure it wouldn’t be! Private providers have invested huge amounts and they have deployed and manage miles and miles of networks. But it just might be time to upset the legacy apple cart and see what solutions can be created with fresh eyes. Public and private partnerships get a lot of lip service – but I think each needs to lose some baggage and expectations before they come to the table. Policy makers can help that by thinking about policies that are creating baggage.


That leaves 2 and 6. Both really focus on demand. That’s the piece of the puzzle that the regular Joe can support most easily. We need to help non-adopters get online. A recent survey by Pew indicates that most people who are offline need help getting online. So, darn it, help your grandpa get online. Or time to support an organization that will help the elderly, or recent immigrants or others who have not had a chance to experience benefits online. Because we will all experience the benefits when tax-funded services can be delivered online. We will all experience benefits when people can stay in their homes longer because they have access to telemedicine.

Support, find or develop applications that help people make use of bigger broadband. Encourage your kid to use Khan Academy, learn about precision agriculture, let your employee work from home. We need to create a case where the providers can “make it up in volume” by having more people make better use of the network. Tough to upgrade the connection for that one house on the cul-de-sac, much easier if four homes want it!

I know my suggestions are simplistic – but I think it is time that we start moving forward with plans.

I was watching the following video with my 10 year old. “What are you watching?” she asked, “The future of libraries.” “Oh did they get more books?” Aargh!

I’m not against books – but as a librarian who loves technology that hurts. The library is so much more – even more than books about the Titanic, which is her current passion. But when she started watching she was drawn in – I realized this video isn’t descriptive – it’s prescriptive of the library of the future. Libraries that want a future will want to watch this.

The video comes from the Aspen Institute; they also produced a report: Rising to the Challenge: Re-Envisioning Public Libraries. The report details what people and communities need to know in the knowledge economy:

  • Lifelong access to an ever-increasing body of knowledge and tools to ensure that their skills remain relevant to the current economy as it continues to evolve
  • The capacity and disposition to learn in small, quick doses rather than wade through mounds of links and piles of data that provide too much information and too little information.
  • The ability to use, understand and process information in many different forms including text, data, audio and video the quality of information from different sources and understand its relevance.
  • Places to gather, collaborate and contribute to knowledge development
  • Access to conversations among creative people in their areas of interest so that they can innovate and develop or maintain a competitive advantage in the knowledge economy
  • People and communities need libraries.

The report goes onto detail each aspect.

The Austin Daily Herald recently posted higlights from a debate between the candidates for Minnesota House District 27A: the incumbent Shannon Savick, a Democrat from Wells and challenger Peggy Bennett, a Republican from Albert Lea. Broadband came up…

Both candidates agreed that high-speed broadband infrastructure is important for Greater Minnesota but disagreed how the state should bring it to areas outside the Twin Cities.

“Let’s find a way to fund broadband … but not with taxes,” Bennett said. Internet infrastructure is just as important as roads and bridges, she said, adding that greater Minnesota needs it to be more competitive.

Savick also supports funding for a broadband program, saying it adds value to areas with too little population to attract Internet services. “It’s not competition we need, it’s customers,” she said.

On the question of funding the state Business Development Public Infrastructure grant program, Bennett said, “If we see it as a need, how do we pay for it?” The community needs to raise up its economy so it can pay for that infrastructure itself.

Savick said she saw the program work in Blooming Prairie, where the community received a 50 percent matching grant from the state to provide water, sewer and road services to a new plant for Minimizer, a company that produces plastic parts for the heavy truck industry. Grants are part of how communities build up their economies, she said.

Bennett responded by saying she supports the state enticing businesses to Minnesota, but the state needs to find a way to pay for that without increasing taxes.

Great to see both candidates recognize the value of broadband. There is an ideological difference in funding – but I think that spans outside of the realm of broadband. I do find it interesting that one candidates says it’s an important as roads and bridges but also suggests that funding should not come from taxes.

Posted by: Ann Treacy | October 23, 2014

Minnesota Broadband Task Force Agenda October 29, 2014

I plan to attend and take notes. But it’s always good for the task Force to hear from the public…

Governor’s Task Force on Broadband
October 29, 2014
DEED – James J. Hill Conference Room
1st National Bank Building 332 Minnesota Street Saint Paul, MN, 55101-1351
10:00 a.m. – 2:30 p.m.

10:00 a.m. – 10:10 a.m. – Welcome/Approval of Minutes/Public Comments

10:10 a.m. – 10:20 a.m.   –              Update from Office of Broadband Development

10:20 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. –               Review of Task Force Report Draft

12:00 p.m. – 12:45 p.m. –                Lunch Provided for Task Force Members

12:45 p.m. – 2:15 p.m. –                  Review of Task Force Report Draft

2:15 p.m. – 2:30 p.m. –                    Upcoming Meeting Details and Adjournment

Posted by: Ann Treacy | October 23, 2014

New staff at Office of Broadband Development

The Office of Broadband Development just announced their recent hires…

New Faces at the Office of Broadband Development

Our office is doubling in size (almost)! This week we are adding two new staff. Jane Leonard, who some of you may know from her work in technology and rural development issues, joins us to handle the intricacies of the Border to Border Broadband Development grant program and other OBD team projects. We are also excited to announce that Christine Pribbernow will be joining DEED, shared between OBD and our office neighbors in Business and Community Development, to help us stay organized and responsive.

I am thrilled to see Jane Leonard join the team. I have worked with Jane for many years – at MRNet, Minnesota Rural Partners and with the Minnesota Sesquicentennial. Jane is a visionary with a huge passion for Minnesota. I’m expecting more good news from the OBD now that I see the team of superstars working there.

And don’t forget the applications for funding from the Office of Broadband Development are due Oct 28!


Great to see at least one Minnesota city on the list…

Next Century Cities Launches with 32 Cities Leading on High-Speed Internet
New Initiative Brings Together City Leaders to Show Next-Generation Internet as Key to the Future of America’s Towns and Cities   Santa Monica, Calif.

(October 20, 2014) – Today 32 cities launched Next Century Cities, a bipartisan, city-to-city initiative dedicated to ensuring the availability of next-generation broadband Internet for all communities. The cities and their elected leaders are joining together to recognize the importance of leveraging gigabit-level Internet to attract new businesses and create jobs, improve health care and education, and connect residents to new opportunities.

Next Century Cities will support communities and their elected leaders across the country as they seek to ensure that all have access to fast, affordable, and reliable Internet. Today’s launch, held at a dynamic coworking space for Santa Monica’s technology companies, convened mayors and other leaders from 31 cities, including Santa Monica, Boston, Chattanooga, Raleigh, Portland, Lafayette, and San Antonio for a cross-cutting discussion about what’s worked in their cities and how to support next-generation networks nationwide.

“Across the country, city leaders are hungry to deploy high-speed Internet to transform their communities and connect residents to better jobs, better health care, and better education for their children,” said Deb Socia, Executive Director of Next Century Cities. “These mayors are rolling up their sleeves and getting the job done. Next Century Cities will be right alongside them to help make their goal of communities across the country having access to fast, affordable, and reliable Internet a reality.”

Next Century Cities will engage with and assist communities in developing and deploying next- generation broadband Internet. Participating cities will work with each other to learn about what works – and what doesn’t – so that every community has access to information that can help them succeed. Cities will also work together to raise awareness of this important issue to all Americans.

At today’s launch, founding city leaders agreed on the importance of next-generation broadband for thriving 21st century communities. The launch event included a video message from Federal Communications Chairman Tom Wheeler and remarks from Mayor Pam O’Connor (D) of Santa Monica, California, Mayor Joey Durel (R) of Lafayette, Louisiana, and Mayor Andy Berke (D) of Chattanooga, Tennessee. The launch event also featured a group discussion among additional mayors, a demonstration of the potential of gigabit Internet connections for cities, and a panel with leading technology officials. Video of the event can be viewed at takeonedigital.com/ee/NCCLaunch.

Next Century Cities Inaugural Partners (32):
Ammon, ID Auburn, IN Austin, TX Boston, MA Centennial, CO Champaign, IL Chattanooga, TN Clarksville, TN Jackson, TN Kansas City, KS Kansas City, MO Lafayette, LA Lexington, KY Leverett, MA Louisville, KY Montrose, CO
Morristown, TN Mount Vernon, WA Palo Alto, CA Ponca City, OK Portland, OR Raleigh, NC Rockport, ME San Antonio, TX Sandy, OR Santa Cruz County, CA Santa Monica, CA South Portland, ME Urbana, IL Westminster, MD Wilson, NC Winthrop, MN

Posted by: Ann Treacy | October 17, 2014

Cable Providers Asked to Think About Local Content

Last week I went to the MTA conference. (I’m hoping to get a PPT to share and will post my notes as soon as I get it.) It was interesting to hear about how telecommunications providers are exploring new sources of revenue. The telephone/telecom game has changed dramatically in the last 20 years. (Remember long distance bills and payphones?) Cable is experiencing some similar disruptions. They have picked up broadband as a product but the content/video game is changing daily. Here’s a view form a recent editorial from Olmsted County

To remain viable, cable needs to adapt in other ways. When television was first taking hold, radio felt its fair share of growing pains. Now it is television’s turn to evolve. Much like radio, I think cable television still has a place in the marketplace, but finding that niche is essential to success. Licensing content to online companies like Netflix and Hulu works for content creators, but content distributors depending on providing viewers content delivered straight to the television are struggling.

I learned in college the best way for radio stations to remain relevant was to localize. Their content changed from being something people gathered around in the living room every night to enjoy, to in-car entertainment, and the industry survived.

I’d love to see cable television attempt to do the same. The local news broadcasts are honestly what I miss the most from our lack of a cable subscription. Harnessing the local strategy might be able to sustain cable’s content delivery, but they’ll need to be innovative in their process.

His suggestions remind me of Lake County and Cook County – both communities are building a place for local content online and/or on air with a mashup between YouTube, Livestreaming and community radio. The old motto for the Internet was always “think local, act global” – looks like that sentiment is as strong as ever.

Posted by: Ann Treacy | October 16, 2014

New dates for FCC Rural Broadband Experiments applications

Here’s the latest from the FCC on the Rural Broadband Experiments

WC Docket No. 10-90
Today, the Wireline Competition Bureau (Bureau) announces the new date for the opening of the rural broadband experiments application filing window, as well as the corresponding
application deadline.

The application filing window for entities interested in participating in the rural broadband experiments will open on Thursday, October 23, 2014 at 9a.m. EDT. Applicants must complete
and submit FCC Form 5610 to participate in the rural broadband experiments. As part of Form 5610, applicants must attach a dedicated bid form for each proposed project, a single descriptive data
form listing all of their proposed projects, and certain project information.

A link to Form 5610 will be available at http://www.fcc.gov/encyclopedia/rural-broadband-experiments on October 23. Applicants have 15 days from the opening of the filing window to submit Form 5610. Thus, the application filing deadline is Friday, November 7 at 6p.m. EST. Applicants are reminded that the application filing deadline is a firm deadline and are encouraged to file as early in the application filing window as possible to ensure that they have ample time to correct any errors that may occur with their application.

Applicants are encouraged to review all of the informational materials released by the Bureau, particularly the rural broadband experiments webinar. The webinar covers each step of completing Form 5610, including how to upload and attach bid forms, descriptive data forms, and project information. In addition, the Bureau has made available templates of the bid form and
descriptive data form, a sample project information submission, and guides dedicated to working with the rural broadband experiments census block list and completing the bid form. All these materials are available at http://www.fcc.gov/encyclopedia/rural-broadband-experiments.

Minnesota Public Radio recently ran an article on an infrastructure upgrade on the Mayo Clinic campus…

A network of hundreds of new low-power, short-range antennas are in place throughout downtown Rochester’s underground walkway system, known as the subway.

The network will prevent dropped calls and speed up the wireless Internet for Mayo Clinic staff, giving them better access to patient records from mobile screens, AT&T said Tuesday. It “changes the dynamics for the use of technology in health care,” said AT&T Minnesota President Paul Weirtz.

Only AT&T customers can access the network currently, but other wireless carriers will be able to join in the future, a company official said.

AT&T also announced an expansion of its 4G LTE coverage to 11 additional communities in southeastern Minnesota and a $1.2 million donation to Mayo’s Proton Beam Cancer Therapy program.

First – I wish I had this capacity at my house. My cell phone (which isn’t AT&T) doesn’t work in my house. It also doesn’t work in my kids’ schools or many other places in my neighborhood. And I live in St Paul. Not a wooded suburb part of the city – I live between three college campuses. I think there are lots of areas that could use this boost.

Second – this is how we fill a Gig. I suspect Mayo Clinic is well prepared for serving broadband for work and non-work related interactions but this scenario makes me think of the schools too. This would be a great infrastructure in the schools to serve students with school computers and their own devices. And I’m a big fan of letting kids use the technology they have. My opinion was reinforced listening to an interesting webinar on Disruptive Innovations in Education: Classrooms Without Walls where Michael King, Recipient, 2012 NASSP Digital Principal Award described “digital literacy in the schools” as teaching kids the skillsets they need for the future workplace. And I have to think the future workplace is going to include some amazing iteration of the smartphone or tablet.

I wanted to share the following invitation to this fun networking event. I found out about it from the MICE email list. MICE is the Midwest Internet Cooperative Exchange. It is a local network exchange point for Midwest network providers. It helps keep Minnesota Internet traffic in Minnesota and builds local redundancies. Aside from the technology of MICE, I think it’s powerful to have so many of the local Internet architects talking regularly too.

Also this reminds me of some of the fun networking events the Internet community used to have in the 1990s. Again they were powerful conversations for finding out what’s happening and building early partnerships…

Cologix and our partners are proud to host the inaugural “Connect Minnesota” Networking Event which will be held Wednesday, October 22nd at the St. Anthony Main Event Centre for both a breakfast & a lunch session.

Wednesday, October 22nd, 2014

Breakfast Session: 7:30 a.m. – 10:45 a.m.

Lunch Session: 10:45 a.m. – 1:00 p.m.

Join us for breakfast or lunch, walk our exhibit hall and network with 100+ of the Midwest’s key telecom decision makers & market influencers.  Industry known guest speakers will be at both sessions.

Register here!


Minnesota Public Radio recently ran an article that outlines the state of “ultra-fast” broadband in St Paul and Minneapolis. US Internet currently provides ultra-fast broadband in some parts of Minneapolis. CenturyLink promises to offer Gigabit access over the next few years. Comcast already offers Gig access. The article observes that competition breeds better pricing and speeds…

Generally, the more high-speed Internet competitors in a market, the better the speeds and prices available to customers. That’s been the case in Chattanooga, where a community-owned electric utility is installing a fiber network, and Kansas City, where Google is deploying such a system.

Gigabit pricing generally starts at about $70 a month, said David Belson, who studies the broadband landscape for Akamai Technologies, a major Web content delivery firm.

Folks in rural areas are acutely aware of that conundrum. Where there’s no competition – there’s no competition. This is especially true where there is not only no competition – there’s no service or limited services. (The unserved and underserved 20 percent of the state.)

The article offers some suggestions…

At best, no more than 5 percent of Minnesota households have access to fiber networks, estimates Chris Mitchell, director of the Community Broadband Networks Initiative at the Institute for Local Self-Reliance.

Mitchell said local governments can increase availability by building fiber networks on their own or in partnership with the private sector, providing financing help, and smoothing the permitting process.

When communities reconstruct streets on a large scale, they can also lay the foundation for future fiber networks. Mitchell wishes St. Paul had been doing that, as the city tore up and rebuilt streets city-wide.

Advice that makes more sense in a metro setting. Because while it’s disruptive to pull fiber anywhere – a real expense comes up when you’re pulling it for 2 homes (or businesses) per square mile.

I found it interesting that US Internet expressed an interest in expanding…

After US Internet wires more of Minneapolis, the company plans to expand in other communities, perhaps by next year, said vice president of technology Travis Carter.

Because I was present for a conversation when the US Internet owner Travis Carter learned about the different in price in serving rural and metro areas…

It started when Travis Carter from US Internet asked “so broadband – are we talking Gig?” Everyone sort of hemmed and hawed and finally said – actually we’re talking 10-20 Mbps up and 5-10 Mbps down. Gulp!

Then providers got down to brass tacks and budgets. Access (Gig) to the backbone in Minneapolis costs a provider 50 cents a month. In Red Wing it’s more like a dollar. In Thief River Falls, it’s $10,000-$20,000 a month. Clearly when wholesale costs vary so much, retail is a different game in remote areas.

Now I suspect that US Internet is thinking St Paul or Wayzata – not Thief River Falls – but it’s fun to think of someone as vocal as Carter bringing is metro sensibilities and expectations to the rural discussion!


Thanks to Bernadine for the Visual Notes!

Last week, I got to be a fly on the wall during a fun discussion in Appleton Minnesota, hosted by UMVRDC (which covers five counties) and the Blandin Broadband Team of Bernadine Joselyn and Bill Coleman. I wanted to write about the meeting because I think they are on the cusp of a couple of trends in Minnesota:

  • People are talking about broadband – not just for geeks anymore!
  • The focus has broadened from city, to county, to region
  • The public sector is wondering what they’re role is; the private sector is wondering what the public role it too.

So why are people talking about broadband? Money. I think the Minnesota State Broadband Fund has got people thinking. Now this follows the ARRA funding and Google community competition from a few years ago. So we may not be on the bleeding edge here. But the previous discussions set a fertile ground and I think the push to get state funding got people who aren’t interested in broadband or broadband sake interested.

One of my favorite comments from the meeting came from a county director of IT. There was a move to further discussions and he noted that we needed to bring new people to the table. There was a time when IT wanted IT to discuss broadband – but not they are willing to open the door and others are happy to walk through.

So what are they talking about? Economic development, cost savings and innovation. The top topics discussed defined by attendees included:

  • Economic Development
    • Fear of losing jobs
    • GIS apps – for management and to attract outdoor enthusiasts
    • Need to start with online transactions as young people won’t come into the courthouse to pay a bill
    • Some counties have online credit card applications
    • Local banks want to counties to go online
    • Workforce transition to tech
    • An online presence is important!
    • Getting businesses to have websites, maintain websites and use social media
  • Spurring use by existing businesses
  • Spurring innovative tech use
  • Resource sharing
    • Staff
    • GIS info
    • Servers/Equipment
  • Workforce

They talked about barriers and benefits and what’s currently happening, which includes a couple applications for the State Broadband Fund and a history and interest in working with the Blandin Foundation.


  • People
  • Competition
  • Differing priorities in counties


  • Regional Network –
  • Anchor tenants spend lots of money
  • Use backbone to spur last mile
  • Regional IT Committee
  • Regional IT (& others) Events
  • Fix redundancies

The counties were in different places as far as broadband access goes – but they were happy to share the relationships they had, especially the relationships that helped to build successful broadband networks – for example in Lac qui Parle County. They recognized the opportunity to build upon each other’s success.

They all were overworked – having more to do and no more staff to do it, which spurred the great interest in resource sharing. Having shared IT support would build human redundancies. (Maybe allow for phone-free vacations!) Creating standards among the counties would help support such an effort. They recognized the opportunity for many hands making light work – or again just supporting redundancies.

They also recognized that especially with middle mile and institutional networks that the value increases the more folks who are on it and the cost goes down the more that folks can ante up for the network. Scott County was lifted up as a great example of a county that had been able to build their network and recoup costs through reduced rental fees. It’s a good example of how public sector can support ubiquitous access – by building or supporting the building of middle mile infrastructure.

They realized in the end that it makes sense to meet regularly to talk about ideas and plans and just to check in to see where there are opportunities for collaboration and cost saving.

It was fun to see my colleagues Bill and Bernadine lead the group through the process. And this is an area where I have worked on broadband adoption projects, so it was also fun to see folks see opportunities to do even more – to create even greater value from the network. (If you want help in your community, you could contact the Blandin Foundation to ask about Community Broadband Resources grants.)

McKinsey & Company recently released a report (Offline and falling behind: Barriers to Internet adoption) that provides a look at broadband adoption from a worldwide perspective. There are many reasons to read the report. For today I have pulled out what I think we can glean from the global view that might help us at home. Here are a few things I thought were interesting…

The report credits five trends for getting people online in the last 10 years…

the expansion of mobile-network coverage and increasing mobile-Internet adoption, urbanization, shrinking device and data-plan prices, a growing middle class, and the increasing utility of the Internet.

The rate of broadband adoption is slowing and we need to make changes to quicken the pace again…

Without a significant change in technology, in income growth or in the economics of access, or policies to spur Internet adoption, the rate of growth will continue to slow. The demographic profile and context of the offline population makes it unlikely that these individuals will come online solely as a result of the trends that have driven adoption over the past decade.

NOTE: Both local and national experts offered a similar observation in 2010 and the ITU offered some worldwide solutions at the same time.

They paint a picture of who isn’t online. The picture will look familiar to anyone watching the field – it’s rural, elderly, low-income… In short the picture includes four barriers: incentives, affordability, user capability and infrastructure. In areas where adoption is lowest, all four barriers are present – they are interrelated.

We estimate that approximately 64 percent of these offline individuals live in rural areas, whereas 24 percent of today’s Internet users are considered rural. As much as 50 percent of offline individuals have an income below the average of their respective country’s poverty line and median income.4 4.This estimate is based on the simplifying assumption that the highest earners are members of the online population. Furthermore, we estimate that 18 percent of non-Internet users are seniors (aged 55 or older), while about 7 percent of the online population are in that age bracket. Approximately 28 percent of the offline population is illiterate, while we estimate that close to 100 percent of the online population can read and write. Lastly, we estimate that 52 percent of the offline population is female, while women make up 42 percent of the online population.

Some efforts are currently being made to make a difference…

Governments are setting ambitious goals for mobile-Internet coverage and investing to extend fixed-broadband infrastructure and increase public Wi-Fi access. At the same time, network operators and device manufacturers are exploring ways to further reduce the cost of access and provide service to underserved populations. In addition, content and service providers are innovating on services that could improve the economic prospects and quality of life of Internet users.

Pew Research recently released their latest data on who is not online. Here’s a high level look…

  • 15% of American adults do not use the internet at all, and another 9% of adults use the internet but not at home.

As of May 2013, 15% of American adults ages 18 and older do not use the internet or email. Asked why they do not use the internet:

  • 34% of non-internet users think the internet is just not relevant to them, saying they are not interested, do not want to use it, or have no need for it.
  • 32% of non-internet users cite reasons tied to their sense that the internet is not very easy to use. These non-users say it is difficult or frustrating to go online, they are physically unable, or they are worried about other issues such as spam, spyware, and hackers. This figure is considerably higher than in earlier surveys.
  • 19% of non-internet users cite the expense of owning a computer or paying for an internet connection.
  • 7% of non-users cited a physical lack of availability or access to the internet.

Last summer, Connect Minnesota came out with a similar study for Minnesota and found that

  • 22% of adults did not subscribe to broadband at home

Of that 22%…

  • 41% said it wasn’t relevant
  • 19% said cost
  • 15% didn’t know
  • 13% lacked digital skills
  • 6% said it wasn’t available

There’s a distinction between the surveys; Pew looks as use and Connect MN looks at subscription but give that wiggle room and the fact that the survey is a year apart, the numbers are too different – except as Pew points out the number of people who lack digital skills or comfort is much higher in the more recent survey. What’s nice is that they went a step further to see what could possibly be down to reach them…

Overall, most adults who do not use the internet or email do not express a strong desire to go online in the future: just 8% of offline adults say they would like to start using the internet or email, while 92% say they are not interested. We also offline adults whether they would need assistance going online if they did wish to do so, and found that only 17% of all non-internet users say they would be able to start using the internet on their own, while 63% say they would need assistance.

I think it helps make the case that digital literacy and digital inclusion initiatives are valuable. I think the 34-41 percent who don’t see the relevance help make the case for a some kind of public service promotional campaign. Unfortunately I think that education is very tied into understanding of value. And in my experience we’re down to the folks are the very far reach of the digital divide and a one-to-many approach doesn’t work as well as the high tough individual training.

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