In our 21st century world, high-speed, reliable access to the internet is as important for Americans as access to health care, shelter, and quality education.
Research shows that increased broadband internet access improves the economy. The White House Council of Economic Advisers concluded in a 2015 report that broadband internet access “provides numerous socio-economic benefits to communities and individuals, improving labor market outcomes for subscribers, increasing economic growth, providing access to better health care, and enhancing civic participation.” By some estimates, broadband is considered responsible for 43 percent of all new jobs created by businesses since 2013.
Yet today, about one in five Americans – more than 64 million people - do not have high-speed internet. Those left out are more likely to be minorities, economically disadvantaged, older or residents of rural communities. Studies show the biggest reason these Americans don’t sign up for broadband is cost; a lack of digital literacy and perceived relevance of online services are other significant non-price barriers.
The Federal Communications Commission, for example, reports that while over 95% of households with incomes of $150,000 or more have broadband internet access, only 48% of those making less than $25,000 have service at home. Low-income consumers disproportionately use smartphones for internet access – but of the low income consumers who have subscribed to mobile broadband, 44% have had to cancel or suspend their service due to financial constraints.
Open MIC is working to build a coalition of investors and businesses to shed light on the issue of digital equity and put into place a long-term strategy to address the problem.