The social function of the Internet has changed dramatically in recent years. What was, until recently, a supplement to other channels of information and communication has become increasingly a basic requirement of social and economic inclusion. Educational systems, employers, and government agencies at all levels have shifted services online—and are pushing rapidly to do more. Price remains only one factor shaping the fragile equilibrium of home broadband adoption, and library and community organizations fill the gap by providing critical training and support services while under severe economic pressures. Commissioned by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to analyze the factors shaping low rates of adoption of home broadband services in low-income and other marginalized communities, this SSRC study is one of the only large-scale qualitative investigations of barriers to adoption in the US and complements FCC survey research on adoption designed to inform the 2010 National Broadband Plan. The study draws on some 170 interviews of non-adopters, community access providers, and other intermediaries conducted across the US in late 2009 and early 2010 and identifies a range of factors that make broadband services hard to acquire and even harder to maintain in such communities.

Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP)

NTIA administers the Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP) within three project categories:

• Comprehensive Community Infrastructure:

Projects to deploy new or improved broadband Internet facilities (e.g., laying new fiber-optic cables or upgrading wireless towers) and to connect “community anchor institutions” such as schools, libraries, hospitals, and public safety facilities. These networks help ensure sustainable community growth and provide the foundation for enhanced household and business broadband Internet services.

• Public Computer Centers:

Projects to establish new public computer facilities or upgrade existing ones that provide broadband access to the general public or to specific vulnerable populations, such as low-income individuals, the unemployed, seniors, children, minorities, and people with disabilities.

• Sustainable Broadband Adoption:

Projects that focus on increasing broadband Internet usage and adoption, including among vulnerable populations where broadband technology traditionally has been underutilized. Many projects include digital literacy training and outreach campaigns to increase the relevance of broadband in people’s everyday lives.


In the long term, these Recovery Act investments will help bridge the digital divide, improve access to education and healthcare services, and boost economic development for communities held back by limited or no access to broadband – communities that would otherwise be left behind. For example, the investments made in broadband infrastructure, public computer centers, and sustainable adoption will:
• provide job training to the unemployed or under-employed,
• help school children access the materials they need to learn,
• allow rural doctors to connect to more specialized medical centers, and
• allow small businesses to offer their services to national and international markets.

The Detroit Media Economy Collaborative

The long-term goals of this program are to:

  • Build the capacity of educators, community organizers, artists, technologists and small businesses to build just and creative forms of education and economic development in Detroit.
  • Model a collaborative spirit and practice that will inspire participatory, creative and effective community decision-making and problem-solving in Detroit.
  • Learn and teach with communities beyond Detroit through our well-established pathways for collaboration, including the Allied Media Projects Network, the U.S. Social Forum, and the Poverty Initiative.
  • Create long-term sustainability within our movements by leveraging more resources and support for grassroots community organizing and economic development, while transforming relationships between funders and grantees, policy-makers and community-members.
  • Affirm practices of accountability, transparency and accessibility within our grassroots communities.

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