Rockefeller Seeks GAO, Industry Help With Assessing Broadband Stimulus - Broadcasting & Cable

Rockefeller Seeks GAO, Industry Help With Assessing Broadband Stimulus

Wants GAO to determine what types of projects were funded, whether they are meeting the goals of increasing adoption and digital "proficiency"
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Senate commerce Committee Chairman Jay
Rockefeller (R-W. Va.) has asked the
Government Accountability Office to review the Broadband Technologies
Opportunities Program (BTOP) in the stimulus act to determine how successful it
has been in spurring Internet literacy and broadband adoption.

He
has also asked for help from broadband providers to identify impediments to
adoption and efforts that promote it, including any initiatives in their
service areas. That request came in letters sent to those various stakeholders,
according to copies supplied by Rockefeller's office.

The
BTOP program funded 110 public computer center and broadband adoption programs
across the country, which were to be substantially complete by October 2012.
Rockefeller wants GAO to determine what types of projects were funded, whether
they are meeting the goals of increasing adoption and digital
"proficiency."

One
of Rockefeller's goals is to collect data on the dynamics of adoption and
"sustained" digital literacy before the government invests any more
money. BTOP set aside about $7 billion for broadband deployment, adoption, and
literacy efforts.

Among
the industry players getting a letter asking for help were Comcast, AT&T,
Time Warner, Verizon, Centurylink, Cox, Charter, Cablevision, Frontier,
Windstream, and Suddenlink.

Comcast
has been a leader in the broadband adoption effort, launching n Internet
Essentials program to subsidize low-cost service to low income households with
school-aged kids, an initiative lauded by the FCC and used as a model for an
industrywide push as part of the FCC's own Connect to Compete broadband
adoption initiative.

Since
the cable adoption effort is aimed at families who are not cable subs, there is
a customer-based-building upside to the effort as well.

"We appreciate Sen. Rockefeller's continued vigilance on broadband adoption and deployment issues," said Comcast in a statement. "We look forward to detailing our strong efforts to help solve  America's broadband adoption challenges.  Since launching Comcast's Internet Essentials program last Fall, we've signed up over 41,000 families and growing - that's about 160,000 low income Americans, most of whom didn't have broadband access before.  We've learned a lot about the complex issues that go into the decisions for many to get broadband.  With Internet Essentials at $9.95 a month for low-income families, we're still seeing that education, digital literacy, and cultural issues need to be overcome, not just cost.  We're working on all of these areas, and are introducing program enhancements, including broadening eligibility for the program, making it easier to sign up, and doubling the speed of the service."

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