Almost a third of U.S. households at 32 percent don’t subscribe to broadband, and it’s driving the government nuts. According to an updated report out Wednesday from the U.S. Department of Commerce, 71 percent of Americans are online, and the rest just don’t seem that interested either because it’s not relevant to them or it’s too expensive. And yes, about 3 percent can’t get it.
To address the 24 percent who find it unaffordable, the FCC today expanded a program with cable operators called Connect to Compete which offers discounted broadband service to families with a child that receives free lunch under the National School Lunch Program. The program offers families a $10 monthly subscription and a $150 laptop to help defray the costs of getting and staying online. People without kids will have to wait and see if they get a program to help them out.
With the broadband gap growing larger every day as more and more resources shift online — from job applications and government benefits programs — the cost of forgoing Internet access is rising for digital Luddites and the agencies and infrastructure that support them. Yet, 47 percent of the folks forgoing broadband do so because they just don’t find it relevant.
I have no idea what the government can or should do about them. As the quality of remote health monitoring and other medical services advance, even older Americans should see benefits from getting online. I get that not everyone needs Turntable.fm or Facebook, but even cable TV adoption is higher than broadband.