The Connected Nation Blog: January 2012

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Connected Nation Statement on FCC's Plans to include Broadband Services in Lifeline Program

From Tom Koutsky, Chief Policy Counsel, Connected Nation

"Only thirty-seven percent of low-income households adopt and use broadband -- a rate barely half the national average. Every day, this broadband adoption gap limits economic opportunity, education, and healthcare for low-income Americans. This broadband adoption gap needs to be closed, and closed quickly before it becomes a perpetual chasm.

As an organization working to increase broadband adoption for the past ten years, Connected Nation supports the migration of existing voice subsidy programs to broadband and welcomes the Federal Communications Commission's adoption of a broadband low-income pilot program targeted at studying this problem. Our research led us early on to work directly with disadvantaged communities and key digital literacy partners like public libraries. We look forward to working with our government and provider partners to develop unique and innovative programs that are effective, actionable, and quickly scalable to close the low-income gap."

Learn more with this USF FAQ. 


Monday, January 30, 2012

FCC Ready to Vote on Changes to Lifeline and Link-Up

By Dev Joshi and Travis Lane, Research Analysts, Connected Nation

At its open meeting tomorrow, the Federal Communications Commission is scheduled to vote on its plan to overhaul the Universal Service Fund’s (USF) Lifeline and Link Up programs that currently help low-income Americans pay for home telephone service. In 2010, approximately $1.2 billion was distributed through the program, comprising a significant portion of the overall USF program of $8.4 billion.

This “USF Redux” will include three elements. First, it will create a national database to reduce waste and abuse of Lifeline funds. Second, this new framework will let residents use Lifeline funds to pay for phone service bundled with high-speed Internet service. Third, it will establish a “Broadband Adoption Pilot Program” to test new ways for the Lifeline program to increase broadband adoption among low-income Americans. These pilot programs are expected to be launched later this year, and tomorrow’s vote will shed further light on the scope and scale of these programs.

Connected Nation supports programs that offer unique solutions for the myriad barriers to home broadband adoption. Importantly, such pilot programs should aim to address all the key barriers to broadband adoption. Even among low-income households (for whom price is a key barrier to broadband adoption), our research shows that cost is not the only reason why residents choose not to subscribe. Across seven states where Connected Nation has conducted intensive surveys focused on households that do not subscribe to broadband, over one-half of adults who don’t subscribe to home broadband service (52%) said they would not subscribe at any price. In addition to cost, low-income residents cite a lack of digital literacy and the belief broadband is irrelevant as top barriers to adoption, neither of which will be remedied by merely reducing the monthly cost of broadband service.

To be effective, broadband adoption programs need to address all of these barriers through educational programs to increase digital literacy and awareness of the benefits of having broadband service at home. 

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Patience of ECO Instructors Vital to Helping Seniors Get Connected

For those who have never operated a computer before or are unfamiliar with the Internet, signing up to learn computer skills can be overwhelming. With the wealth of information that is available, learning this new skill can be both exciting and intimidating to a first-time computer user.

Connect Ohio’s Every Citizen Online (ECO) free basic computer training is a beneficial resource to new adult computer users. In fact, more than 16,000 adults have already taken advantage of the training at 250 training facilities all across Ohio.

Larry Parks recently participated in the training through the Rossford Public Library in Wood County. Parks is 65-years-old, had never operated a computer before in his life, and felt it was time to learn some simple computer skills and to see what the Internet had to offer him. Parks says before entering the class, he only knew how to turn a computer on.

“My son and daughter have been encouraging me (to use the Internet) for years,” said Parks.  “You’re never too old to learn something new.”

Parks has enjoyed the ECO training and had only nice things to say about his training instructor, Adam Murphy. He credits Murphy’s patience to helping him learn how to use the computer.

“If Adam was impatient with me, I probably would have quit,” said Parks. “It’s embarrassing to be slow at something. Adam has helped me, big time.”

Murphy says he realizes how overwhelming it can be for first-time users and focuses on helping his students concentrate on one task at a time. He also makes himself available for student’s questions, even after they’ve completed training. He periodically touches base with Parks, revisiting some of the class material.

“The classes are there to provide a foundation (terminology, starter tips, etc.) to allow the participants to get comfortable with technology,” said Murphy. “I want participants to learn enough to start exploring on their own and begin asking questions.”

Parks says that he is not completely comfortable with his new technology use yet, but he is regularly using the computer. Since taking the training, he is able to participate on his church’s prayer group list, which is communicated via e-mail, and he looks forward to checking out

Any Ohio adult is eligible for the 6-hour training program. Find a training location and register for Every Citizen Online classes today by calling 1-800-NOW-I-CAN (669-4226).

Find a training facility near you
Find additional information about the Every Citizen Online program


Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Broadband Mapping Goes Mobile!

Great news today in our efforts to bridge the digital divide: We now have the ability to access the national broadband map on mobile devices!

What does it mean for Connected Nation?

As we work with communities, organizations, and local providers to assess broadband needs, we use the national broadband map to help examine what areas lack availability and how we, along with our partners, can go about bringing more broadband options to those areas. We're also very excited about our efforts to help build this map by contributing our own research and data to the project.

We encourage you to check out the new functionality at and take a look at the broadband availability in your area. Do you have access, or do you live in an area that doesn't currently have broadband options?

Let us know, and join the conversation by shooting us a note on Twitter or Liking us on Facebook. We want to hear from you and get your broadband stories. Our efforts are about improving quality of life in communities and providing the benefits of broadband to more people.

Stay connected and help see our efforts through to success!


Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Social Media Takes Center Stage at the Super Bowl

CNN Tech article highlights blend of culture, sports, and social media

By Wil Payton, Communications Specialist, Connected Nation

Social media has become an integral part of our culture. Just look at preparations for Super Bowl XLVI where a social media command center opened Monday and will run through Super Bowl Sunday.

A 2,800-square-foot space has been set up in downtown Indianapolis where techies will monitor the digital fan conversation via Facebook, Twitter, and other platforms from a facility that will utilize more than a mile of Ethernet cable.

This is an example of the "the ubiquity of social media and the absolute necessity for companies, organizations, and communities to use these tools to improve their relations with their customer, audiences, and citizens," wrote Michael Holmes, director of Ball State University’s Center for Media Design, who will be conducting a study of the command center’s operations.

To read the full article click here. Also, stay connected by Liking us on Facebook and Following us on Twitter to get the latest information on our effort to expand broadband adoption.

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Friday, January 20, 2012

Connect America Fund FAQ's Answered

By Phillip Brown, Director, Government Affairs & Advocacy, Connected Nation

In the short time since the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) adopted an order that begins reforming the federal Universal Service Fund (USF) by creating the Connect America Fund and phasing out the existing High-Cost Fund, Connected Nation has noticed a big increase in the interest among Connected Nation stakeholders in the broadband mapping process and how Connected Nation’s broadband data (which is submitted for use in the National Broadband Map) might be a factor in USF broadband deployment funding.

To be sure, the National Broadband Map’s underlying data (and the data submissions Connected Nation provides for that) will be a great help to the FCC as it determines where in the U.S. Connect America Fund assistance can have the biggest impact on connecting unserved and underserved households. 

To assist Connected Nation’s stakeholders at the state and local level, as well as broadband providers, we’ve compiled a list of Frequently Asked Questions that we hope provides answers on how broadband mapping data will factor into the reformed USF.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Keeping the Door Locked to Your Online Accounts

By Wil Payton, Communications Specialist, Connected Nation

Passwords are a pain to remember. That’s a given. It’s easy to go the quick route and choose a password based on personal information like a pet’s name or some not so random numerical selection like “123456”.

But if you don’t give some serious thought to the passwords you create then you might be jeopardizing your personal information and, even more importantly, your finances.

There are hacker programs out there that can crack these types of passwords in a matter of seconds.

The following article gives a few tips for protecting yourself by developing strong passwords.

You are now under attack by machines

After a hacking scare at Gawker Media last year, security firm Duo Security showed that it could crack 200,000 user passwords in under an hour using a "brute force" attack, in which computers try millions of passwords until one works.

Popular picks like "123456" take seconds to crack, but one with at least eight upper- and lowercase letters, numbers, and symbols will hold out long enough to send hackers searching for easier prey.

To check out the full article, please click here

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Google Partnership Helps Internet Users Stay Safe Online

By Dev Joshi, Research Analyst, Connected Nation

Yesterday, Google launched a new website called “Good to Know” which is designed to help Internet novices stay more secure as they explore the web. The site features advice on protecting personal information online, explains how personal information can be collected and used, and offers a dictionary of Internet security terms to help readers be more proactive when it comes to protecting their privacy. Google is partnering with four other organizations on this project: 
This is an important issue because many Americans are choosing not to go online due to fears about online security and a lack of digital literacy (which often go hand in hand – with the increase in high-profile security breaches in the news, it’s easy for non-adopters to imagine an online scammer around every virtual “corner”). According to Connected Nation research, almost one out of five adults who don’t subscribe to broadband (19% or 3.75 million adults in states surveyed by Connected Nation) cite digital literacy as their biggest barrier to adopting broadband, including 4% or 782,000 residents concerned about security and fraud and 5% or 920,000 residents not comfortable using a computer. 

Want to learn more?  Stay connected by Liking us on Facebook and Following us on Twitter to get all the latest news on our efforts to bridge the digital divide.

Texas Broadband Task Force Meeting Highlights New Partnership for Better Computer Access and Skills

Making more computers available and teaching people how to use them is the goal of an exciting new partnership presented at yesterday’s Texas Broadband Task Force meeting in Austin.

Executive Director Don Shirley explained how the Connected Texas initiative is partnering with the State Library to support statewide digital literacy efforts through increased public outreach and various incentives to drive more participation in computer training, subscription to the broadband Internet, and greater use of public computing centers across the state.

Other meeting highlights included a detailed look at the current state of FCC reform that is now in the works in Washington, D.C. and how the reform may impact Texas communications money.

Shirley also updated the Task Force on how the community engagement efforts are coming together for the new “Connected” community certification program. “Connected” is a community-based initiative to accelerate broadband access and use. The certification process benefits communities through a process of assessment, benchmarking, and planning by helping participants identify their community’s technological strengths and weaknesses and helping community partners match up with local opportunities.

The next meeting of the Texas Broadband Task Force is set for April.

Meantime, make sure to stay connected to the latest information on our efforts to expand broadband adoption throughout Texas. Like us on Facebook and Follow us on Twitter!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Agenda Set for Today's Texas Broadband Task Force Meeting

The Texas Broadband Task Force is coming together today in Austin to tackle high-speed Internet expansion issues across the state.

Some of the key topics on today’s agenda are:
  • USF reform
  • Connected Texas community engagement
  • A new partnership between Connected Texas and the State Library to improve digital literacy and computer adoption
Today's meeting will be held at 2PM. Be sure to check back here for an update of the meeting results.

Also, stay connected by Liking us on Facebook and Following us on Twitter to get the latest information on our effort to expand broadband adoption throughout Texas!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

A Fast Start to 2012!

The new year is only eleven days old and our team is already making great strides toward further bridging the digital divide in 2012!

Yesterday, Amy Kuhlers, Corey Johns, and the Iowa Economic Development Authority (IEDA) hosted our initial Connect Iowa advisory committee meeting in which they discussed the history of broadband expansion in the state, and the plan for bringing broader access to Iowa communities in the coming year. The meeting was a great success and set the groundwork for how we can work together with our partners across the state in 2012.

We’re also excited to announce that we will be partnering with the Iowa Association of Regional Councils (IARC) to launch our Connected community certification program. The effort will help us explore options and opportunities for expanding broadband access, adoption, and use in communities where it is underutilized. 

Our team has already put together an impressive library of research on broadband adoption throughout the state and are working hard to fill in any gaps in that information, and build weekly goals to ensure that we are able to bring broadband to more schools, businesses, and communities across the state this year.

Want to learn more or get involved with our efforts in the new year?  Stay connected by Liking us on Facebook and Following us on Twitter to get the latest news and information from the Connect Iowa team.