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Broadband usage growing even as gaps persist
The margin of sampling error for the aggregate 2009 data is plus or minus 0.3 percentage points, with higher or lower sampling errors for questions involving subgroups.
Closing gaps in broadband use is a top priority for the FCC, which released a sweeping national broadband plan filled with policy proposals in March. The agency’s top recommendations include tapping the federal program that subsidizes telephone service for poor and rural Americans to pay for broadband, and unleashing more airwaves for wireless connections. Wireless broadband is seen as a particularly attractive option for bringing high-speed service to rural areas that may be too sparsely populated to justify costly landline networks.
“The digital divide is an opportunity divide _ if you can’t get online, you can’t compete in the digital economy,” FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski said in a statement reacting to the new Commerce Department report. “Connecting America to fast, affordable Internet will create 21st Century jobs that grow our economy and secure our global leadership.”
At the same time, the NTIA and the Rural Utilities Service, part of the Agriculture Department, have been handing out roughly $7 billion in stimulus money to pay for new broadband networks and programs to get more Americans online.
Strickling stressed that one key challenge for policymakers lies in convincing Americans who are not online of the benefits of broadband.
The Census data found that 38 percent of Americans who don’t have broadband at home say they don’t subscribe because they don’t need it, while 26 percent say it’s too expensive and only 4 percent say it’s not available where they live.
A survey conducted by the FCC last year reached many of the same conclusions.
To try to change such attitudes, the stimulus program includes $250 million for projects to teach digital literacy skills and encourage broadband adoption, plus another $200 million for public computer centers.
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