Broadband Adoption Jumps to 75 Percent of US Consumers

A bright spot in internet news, the Nielsen Company’s new “State of the Media 2010″ report indicates a 10% jump in high speed internet adoption among consumers in 2010, up from 65% reported in an FCC study in 2009 (Learn more in my blog Stats on Broadband Adoption and Use in America from March 2010).

Nielsen’s research also indicates another 5% of consumers anticipate purchasing high speed internet access in the near future, which would bring the total percentage of US consumers using high speed access to 80%.

As a nation, the broad adoption of high speed internet is critical to our competitive standing in global competition.  As individuals, high speed access is critical to participation in our world.

There are still 25% (Hopefully soon to be 20%) of Consumers without high speed access

With 1-in-4 consumers still without high speed access – whether by choice or due to lack of access – we have a long way to go bridge the digital divide.  This requires us to continue to address affordability issues, provide community access points through libraries, schools, and other resources, help show the value of high speed access, and address the clear safety and values concerns among the non-adopters. The FCC’s study found that nearly half of Americans who remain offline do so in part because they fear “all the bad things that can happen on the Internet”.

These concerns are not solely the domain of non-adopters. Among those who are already online, the survey found that 65% strongly agree there is too much pornography and offensive material on the Internet. And 57% strongly agree that it is too easy for their personal information to be stolen online, while 46% strongly agree that the Internet is too dangerous for children.

To drive adoption, focus must be placed on three additional fronts: education, infrastructure and enforcement.

Education: Service providers should be encouraged to provide site specific, easily discoverable about the benefits of internet access and clear safety information. This information should be provided in Spanish as well as English on the ISP’s websites, with material targeted to specific demographic groups – not just kids and parents, but seniors, adults, and those with unique opportunities or risks.

Public service announcements and public awareness campaigns focus on two areas: informing consumers about the tremendous benefits of online access, as well as teaching core self-protective measures such as recognizing a phishing scam or teaching consumers to identify how information leaks, and avoid posting personal information in public access websites.

Infrastructure: Service providers should be motivated to enhance their services’ infrastructure to include robust security and safety functionality – such as built-in antivirus software and personal/family safety settings – for all accounts. Companies should be encouraged to innovate and seek competitive advantage on the safety front — and emphasize that innovation in their marketing.

Enforcement: The FCC needs to coordinate with the appropriate agencies to ensure that law enforcement at the local, state and national levels are provided the manpower, training, and resources needed to adequately respond to online crimes. Consumers need to feel assured that crimes committed against them online will not go unpunished.

Service providers should be encouraged to enforce their terms of service policies – today most sites have lofty terms, but fail to adequately enforce these – and an unenforced policy is worse than no policy at all as it creates a false sense of safety.

Service providers should also be encouraged to improve their site moderation and develop technologies to identify and respond to abuses as they occur, as well as providing parents with filtering tools and providing information enabling them to monitor and set clear rules for children’s use.

Until consumers are convinced of the relevance of broadband access in their lives, and are convinced that they can go online safely we will continue to see too large a gap between the government’s access goals and consumer’s adoption rates.

Linda

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