The Benton Institute for Broadband & Society took a look at the great increase in broadband adoption during the pandemic (Broadband Benefit Programs are Helping to Close the Digital Divide: Four Lessons for Policymakers). They looked at where increases were greatest, what connections were most popular and tracked what seemed to encourage greater use. They came up with four lessons:
1. Discover, grow, and replicate
The data show that progress is possible. State broadband planners should determine where it is happening, build upon it, and replicate it in other parts of the state.
2. Do not grow complacent—subscription vulnerability is a persistent problem
The Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) is scheduled to sunset when funding runs out—which could occur sometime in 2024. Policymakers should extend the program beyond its current funding limit.
3. Focus more on affordability and less on technology
Adoption patterns have shifted under the ACP. Through September 2022, 56% of the 13.5 million ACP enrollees are wireless users, with 43% having enrolled in wireline service. These shifting adoption patterns indicate that the ACP-eligible population is using the subsidy to satisfy their affordability needs as they see them.
4. Take a bow, but don’t take a rest
We are in an era when the potential to tackle the digital divide has never been greater. Maintaining funding to help households address affordability challenges is a looming concern.
As part of the process, they looked at adoption rates in major US cities. Here’s what they found in Minneapolis:
|Percent At or Below 125% Federal Poverty Level||19.1%|
|Wireline Change 2019 to 2021||6.2%|
|Wireline Change 2017 to 2021||7.1%|
|Desktop/ Laptop Change 2019 to 2021||5.6%|
|Cell Only Change 2017 to 2021||0.4%|
|Cell Only Change 2019 to 2021||−2.3%|
|Tablet Change 2019 to 2021||4.0%|
|Smartphone Change 2019 to 2021||2.4%|