Leaders and top policy representatives of over 20 organizations gathered in Washington, D.C., on April 6 for NTCA's first Broadband Adoption Summit. The summit provided a forum for an informal dialogue about the issue and the sharing of ideas on partnership opportunities to advance adoption. NTCA hosted the summit in an effort to generate an ongoing discussion on broadband adoption challenges and to identify collaborations for finding solutions to overcoming barriers to adoption.
The summit began with a keynote address by Larry Strickling, the Department of Commerce assistant secretary for communications and information and administrator of the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA). Strickling discussed the benefits of broadband access and the Obama administration's goals for broadband deployment and adoption. Strickling emphasized broadband's essential role in providing economic and educational opportunities and highlighted various adoption initiatives NTIA oversees.
Following Strickling's address, NTCA Economist Rick Schadelbauer unveiled a white paper, "All Aboard? Tackling Broadband Adoption," which leverages three different studies to explore the underlying barriers to adoption and proposes high-level next steps toward achieving policy-makers' goal of universal adoption.
Schadelbauer likened the broadband adoption issue to a rail system in that, "we've got to be able to transport riders and consumers from point A to point B, but we've also got to get people on this train." He noted, however, that unlike a train, with broadband the goal is to keep consumers on the train and to have the ability to move to endless points. Schadelbauer cited FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski's statement that "a digital divide is an opportunity divide," and stated the reasons for this divide include a lack of a) demand; b) access; c.) resources and d) knowledge/experience.
Following Schadelbauer's presentation and the distribution of the association's white paper, NTCA Chief Executive Officer Shirley Bloomfield facilitated a lively open dialogue. When Bloomfield posed the question, "If we build it, will they come?" several groups–the Farm Bureau, the Farmers Union and the National Grange-shared stories about their aging memberships and the challenges that presents to advancing adoption. The groups noted that many of their older members, however, had partnered with younger members to establish e-mail and Facebook accounts, and this development had enabled the organizations to stay in more regular contact with their members.
Anchor institutions, such as the American Library Association and the American Telemedicine Association (ATA), offered insights and examples of the actions they have undertaken to increase adoption. ATA's Senior Director of Policy, Gary Capistrant, expressed the need for the "feds to help the feds"–for the different federal institutions to communicate and aid one another to ensure that health centers, community centers and doctors offices are all wired.
Representatives from NTIA and the FCC also were present at the summit and provided insight and answers to the questions many participants had regarding specific federal grant programs and initiatives targeting adoption. NTIA's Maureen Lewis emphasized that partnership is one of the key criteria in advancing adoption. She encouraged attendees to visit NTIA's website to see examples and opportunities for collaboration.
Bloomfield wrapped up the discussion by encouraging attendees to continue exchanging ideas and seeking ways to work together to advance broadband adoption.
Participating at the NTCA Broadband Adoption Summit were: American Farm Bureau Federation, American Telemedicine Association, American Library Association, Appalachian Regional Commission, Community Action Partnership, Connected Nation, Federal Communications Commission, Housing Assistance Council, International Association for K-12 Online Learning, John Staurulakis, Inc., National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners, National Cooperative Business Association, National Corn Growers Association, National Farmers Union, National Grange, National Information Solutions Cooperative, National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, National Rural Telecommunications Cooperative, National Telecommunications and Information Administration, U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the Rural Telecommunications Finance Cooperative.