Originally published: October 14, 2011
Last updated: October 14, 2011 - 3:55pm
Encouraging Americans to sign up for broadband service at home is just as important as ensuring it is available across the country, according to the Minority Media and Telecom Council.
The group filed an ex parte letter with the Federal Communications Commission regarding the agency's upcoming vote on reform of the $8 billion Universal Service Fund, which subsidizes the deployment of telecom services to rural areas. The FCC is planning to shift the focus of the $4.5 billion high-cost portion of the fund from landline phone service to broadband Internet access. The MMTC's letter argues that any reform plan should prioritize adoption along with deployment, especially since roughly 50 percent and 55 percent of African-American and Hispanic households, respectively, do not use broadband. "Further cost, not availability, is the primary reason for not adopting the Internet among all groups combined," the letter states. "According to [the National Telecommunications and Information Administration], of the reasons why more households generally do not have broadband at home, lack of interest, cost, and lack of a computer all outrank availability for all income brackets." The group notes that the significant racial disparities in wealth contribute to low broadband adoption rates for minorities, and argues the data clearly supports the need for greater emphasis on low-cost home access and campaigns to demonstrate the relevance of broadband access for low-income families.