Report: More African-American homes using broadband

A new report says a narrowing broadband adoption gap between African-Americans and whites can be further closed by focusing on a new FCC initiative connecting broadband with jobs.

The report released Wednesday by the National Urban League policy institute shows the overall broadband adoption gap narrowing. While the home broadband adoption gap between black and white Americans formerly stood at 19 percent in 2009, it had dropped to 8 percent by 2010, according to the report.

FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski called the report "a good sign that we can continue to make progress together" on the broadband adoption gap.

Nonetheless, he noted that one-third of Americans still don't have broadband service at home.

"Having this many on the wrong side of the digital divide is not good for our country, our economy or our ability to compete," Genachowski said.

"Roughly one in three Americans — nearly 100 million Americans — still haven’t adopted broadband at home," he lamented. "And nearly half of African-Americans still find themselves on the wrong side of the broadband divide.
"We can’t afford this," he said, adding that, in the 21st century, "having one-third of Americans sitting on the sidelines is as unthinkable as having one-third of our country without electricity in the 20th century.

"We need to close the broadband adoption gap and make sure every American can enjoy the benefits of high-speed Internet," he said.

Genachowski called digital literacy "increasingly essential in the job market," and said today's report "demonstrates that we’re making progress in our efforts to connect all Americans to the digital age and to job opportunities."

Genachowski praised the cable industry for making "a decision to commit to helping solve the broadband adoption gap" and to "unleash opportunity through broadband" in the form of the FCC's Connect-to-Compete initiative.

He described the initiative as "an unprecedented coalition" of corporations and nonprofits working together to "tackle the challenges underneath the broadband adoption gap — cost, digital literacy and relevance."

The first of the problems can be ameliorated by the recently announced cable industry plan to sell $9 broadband to school lunch-eligible households, he said.

Regarding digital literacy, Genachowski noted that the FCC has proposed using savings from the Universal Service Fund to pay for technology training programs at schools and libraries receiving USF "e-rate" funds.

He noted the number of jobs needing technology skills is expected to grow as much as 75 percent in the next decade. "Without digital access and digital literacy, finding and landing a job is virtually impossible in this country," he said.

Republican Commissioner Robert McDowell also praised the report, though he admitted "more needs to be done" and promised that "more will be done."

Citing a Pew Center study, McDowell noted that more and more Americans are choosing to "cut the cord" from traditional broadband services — and minorities in particular are more likely to rely on mobile devices. "The Internet is going mobile, and minorities are leading the way.

"This is promising," McDowell said.

Updated at 4:50 p.m.