Access and Impacts Report: tracking Internet Essentials customers before the pandemic

The Technology Policy Institute just released a report on Access and Impacts: Exploring how internet access at home and online training shape people’s online behavior and perspectives about their lives

This research addresses these questions through a survey of subscribers to Comcast’s Internet Essentials pro[1]gram. The 2020 survey was fielded prior to the pandemic; it has a total of 618 respondents. The research also has a longitudinal design by which 218 respondents from a 2018 survey were called back in 2020.

They look at three questions:

  • How does having access at home shape people’s online behavior?
  • What factors may influence people’s online behavior once they subscribe?
  • Does having home internet access affect how people view their lives?

Here are the high level findings:

A study of Comcast Internet Essentials customers finds that home broadband service has…

A home access effect: 81% of IE subscribers say it helps a lot in carrying out online tasks, which in turn is correlated with:

  • Acquiring more computing devices
  • Expanding the scope of online activities
  • Optimism about the future

A digital skills effect, which is limited to the 34% of IE users who have had formal digital skills training.

  • Skills training is linked to higher levels of confidence in digital skills
  • This, in turn, has a link to greater internet use for education and other purposes
  • There is a correlation between digital skills training and people’s optimism about their futures

Looking at people’s digital skills training experience shows that:

  • Education is a large motivator for pursuing training

  • Learning how to better manage privacy and security of personal information also plays a role

  • Both in-person and online modes of training matter to users.

  • The time and location of training matters to those who pursue it, and many say a time that better fits their schedules would improve the training experience

This entry was posted in Cable, Digital Divide, Research by Ann Treacy. Bookmark the permalink.

About Ann Treacy

Librarian who follows rural broadband in MN and good uses of new technology (, hosts a radio show on MN music (, supports people experiencing homelessness in Minnesota ( and helps with social justice issues through Women’s March MN.

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