Diffusion Based Strategy for Universal Broadband

In early 2009, the Untied States Congress passed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, which called upon the Federal Communication Commission (FCC) to develop a National Broadband Plan, which would provide a roadmap for ensuring that every American has affordable access to broadband capability. Although Internet was invented in the United States,  it continued to fall behind other countries in providing universal access to broadband services at affordable prices. It now ranks 15th among OECD countries. Currently we have various funds for implementing Universal Broadband in the United States. But the key is to adopt a correct strategy, to use those funds.

When it comes to implementing Universal Broadband in the United States, apart from the funds and its allocation, there are couple of other major issues:

1) Adoptability issue:

Currently, 80 millions Americans do not subscribe to Broadband internet, and only 40% of low income households ( < $20,000 per year) subscribe to broadband at home. Although cost of internet service access is a major factor in the non-adoptability of the internet, it is definitely not the only factor.  Eighty percent of the low income households subscribe to premium television services whose monthly fees are comparable to, and often exceed, the cost of broadband. Digital illiteracy is one big reason why non-adopters are not willing to adopt.

2) Barriers to Infrastructure Deployment issue:

The network providers are hesitant to invest in the infrastructures in high-cost (remote) areas. This is due to the fact that remote rural areas generate low revenues, not only because of the low population density, but because of the low internet adoptability. Even if internet is made available to the people, they are not willing to accept the technology, and are not convinced of its benefits.

Just rolling out the infrastructure is not going to do the trick, as far as achieving the “Universal Broadband in the United States” goal is concerned. The FCC needs to move away from a “deployment based” strategy, to a “diffusion based” implementation strategy. They need to invest in “Digital Literacy” by collaborating with the change agents [Rogers] like the local NGOs, and opinion leaders [Rogers], to get feedback in terms of the technology requirements, to train and influence the illiterate citizens, and convince them to adopt broadband internet.  Other change agents like professionals and academics can be encouraged (by investing in Science and Technology research) to make the internet equipment (computers and other infrastructure) better and cheaper. Barriers to infrastructure deployment can be reduced by providing incentives to the network providers, in the form of tax-breaks, to encourage them to invest in the remote access areas.

Broadband Internet is an asset, and has changed our lives for the better. It today’s knowledge-based economy, internet has become crucial for the economic development of a nation. But superior technology innovations do not necessarily diffuse themselves [Rogers]. Implementing a diffusion-based broadband implementation strategy, will diffuse the internet across the non-adopting population, and drastically improve the adoptability and accessibility of broadband internet in the United States. Hence, by doing so, it will help us close the digital-divide, and help us reach our goal of ensuring every American has affordable access to broadband internet.



About pritamkabe

Originally from Bombay, India. Relocated to the United States in 1997 for attending graduate school at The University of Texas. Completed my Masters in Electrical Engineering in 1999 and then worked in the Hi-Tech industry for the next 11 years in Austin, Texas. I have a passion for travelling, meeting new people, and experiencing new cultures...and i've been very fortunate to have gotten the opportunity to travel quite a bit. Sports and food are my other big passions in life. Some life-changing experiences in my life a years ago changed my perspective of life, after which, just have an engineering job was not meaningful to me anymore. Hence i quit my engineering career, and I'm now motivated to give back to society and make a positive impact in some way. To get started on that journey, i went back in graduate school, and recently graduated as a "Mid-Career Fellow in Foreign Service", from the Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service, at Georgetown University, Washington DC. Currently in New Delhi, India, on a research fellowship, to learn about the educational issues in India, and brainstorm my ideas about technological interventions for resolving those issues.
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