New SSRC/FCC Study: Lack of Broadband Access a Barrier to Socio-Economic Opportunity

A new study, Broadband Adoption in Low-Income Communities, has been released by the Social Science Research Council.  This report, conducted at the request of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), analyzes the factors shaping low rates of adoption of home broadband services in low income and other marginalized communities.  The FCC commissioned the report to inform its understanding of barriers to broadband adoption and shape the National Broadband Plan.

A major finding of the report is that lack of broadband access hinders individuals and communities from taking full advantage of certain social and economic opportunities and, therefore, adversely impacts their potential for socio-economic improvement.  Other findings include:

  • Price is only one factor shaping the fragile equilibrium of home broadband adoption.
  • Libraries and other community organizations fill the gap between low home adoption and high demand and are under severe pressure to meet community needs.
  • Low-income communities are aware of the barrier that non-adoption imposes.

According to the study, although the majority of Americans have home broadband access, 65% of those with incomes below $25,000 do not have broadband connections.  Lack of access creates a non-adoption tax as online services expand, raising the relative costs of a wide range of activities, from shopping, to navigating city services, to communicating with family members.

Authored by Dharma Dailey and Amelia Bryne of DeepTech.org, Alison Powell of the Oxford Internet Institute, and Joe Karaganis and Jaewon Chung of the Social Science Research Council, the report was released March 2, 2010 at the American Library Association Washington Office (video and images from the event are available at http://vimeo.com/9892111).

Joe Karaganis is Director of the SSRC’s Media, Technology and Culture Program, and is available for interviews.

Published on: Thursday, March 04, 2010