Broadband adoption is defined as the percentage of the population (or households) that subscribe to broadband service. The five main barriers to broadband adoption are:
- Unavailability of broadband
- Cost or affordability of service
- Cost of computers, laptops or other devices
- Digital literacy or lack thereof
- The internet’s perceived relevancy in a person’s daily life
AD1.1: Advertise and promote Lifeline and low-cost provider offerings.
The state government, local governments, K-12 institutions, libraries and healthcare providers who wish to improve broadband adoption should consider offering information on low-cost options such as Lifeline and the various provider offerings to low-income households.
The N.C. Broadband Infrastructure Office should assist organizations that wish to promote low-cost programs in developing necessary educational strategies, efforts and materials.
AD1.2: The Public Utility Commission Lifeline task force should meet regularly to assess and measure Lifeline subscription rates and provide recommendations at the state level for ensuring widespread adoption of the program.
The task force should continue to publish quarterly reports.
The PUC should collaborate with the Broadband Infrastructure Office and other stakeholders to determine the educational efforts needed to ensure adoption of the program.
AD1.3: Publish best practices for local governments that want to offer subsidies or other adoption programs for low-income households for broadband.
Programs to increase broadband adoption are most effective when spearheaded by the communities themselves. But few resources exist for local governments seeking to increase broadband adoption in their communities through subsidies. Thus, the Broadband Infrastructure Office and its partners should develop and publish best practices for local governments who wish to construct a local-level subsidy program for vulnerable populations in their communities.
AD1.4: BIO and its partners should conduct a needs assessment and feasibility study of a state-level subsidy program for low-income households.
As cost is a major barrier to broadband adoption, the Broadband Infrastructure Office recommends conducting new research studies, assessments and feasibility studies to better understand the level of need for intervention and subsidy programs.
The Broadband Infrastructure Office will utilize lessons learned from the N.C. LITE-UP program and other national programs to compile and publish best practices.
AD2.1: Leverage MCNC’s infrastructure to better facilitate high-speed connections at 100% of the state’s libraries.
AD2.2: The state librarian and the Broadband Infrastructure Office should pursue endowment of a two-year position funded by foundation grants with the purpose of bridging the state’s digital divide through the creation of community-based digital literacy programs, adoption initiatives and technical assistance. These programs would be based on demonstrably successful models, such as Charlotte’s Digital Charlotte program.
AD2.3: Use grant funds like E-Rate funds to obtain funding for the last mile to libraries.
AD2.4: Provide grant-writing assistance or connections to entities capable of assisting with grant writing and management to communities and organizations in need of assistance.
AD2.5: Create partnerships, search for cost-savings and apply the savings to building out broadband to communities and community anchor institutions. In addition, ensure that government-owned community anchor institutions are adequately equipped with broadband infrastructure and digital devices to meet local demand for services.
AD3.1: As mobile broadband use continues to increase, policies and regulations that impact mobile broadband adoption and use should be continuously monitored to better understand their benefits and challenges.
AD4.1: Build upon existing tools like the federal government’s digital literacy portal to provide tested digital-literacy tools and curricula for organizations that seek to increase digital literacy in their communities.
AD4.2: Highlight existing intergenerational digital literacy training programs, so they can be replicated.
Programs like the Raleigh Digital Connectors program – a program created and provided by the City of Raleigh that provides technology education to youth, who then teach the skills they have gained to other members of their communities – create opportunities for cross-generational training, learning and skill development. This and similar programs are good examples of programs that could be replicated throughout the state.
AD4.3: Identify and publish best practices, and highlight case study models.
Programs like the Raleigh Digital Connectors program exist throughout the state, but information on them cannot be found in one central location. In collaboration with stakeholders and partners, the N.C. Broadband Infrastructure Office should compile a living list of these programs and models, publishing and distributing it for N.C. communities and organizations to consult when developing their programs.