Tomorrow, we’re participating in The National Urban League’s Urban Ideas Forum 2013 at the National Public Radio Headquarters. The afternoon session will be about advancing a Broadband Agenda for Urban America. As a leading provider of video, broadband and voice services in the U.S., with more than 15 million customers and 52,000 employees in 29 states, this is a topic of great importance to us. You can RSVP to the event here.
When it comes to broadband, we’re doing our part. We’ve built out more than 400,000 miles of hybrid fiber-coaxial cable connecting our customers to us, each other, and the whole world. Building and maintaining that infrastructure in a competitive marketplace requires substantial resources, so it’s no wonder we were recently named an American “investment hero” by the Progressive Policy Institute. Last year alone, we invested $3 billion in the communities we serve. It means better services for our customers and great jobs for our employees and community of vendors.
There’s no doubt about the power of broadband when it comes to leveraging opportunity. Broadband provides small businesses tools that allow them to compete across borders and extract the benefits of a global supply chain. For educators, broadband makes it easier to access and present content and customize teaching. And for urban communities, broadband helps to attract homeowners, renters and new businesses. Research published by Time Warner Cable’s Research Program on Digital Communications showed that having the Internet at home is associated with larger increases in employment and hours worked among African-Americans. But what should the broadband policy agenda be for urban America?
More than 98% of Americans have access to broadband service at home. As a country, we should celebrate this accomplishment. But our work is not done. In its most recent survey of U.S. Internet adoption, the Pew Internet and American Life Project found that 15% of all Americans ‑‑ that’s 24 million adults ‑‑ don’t use the Internet. NTIA’s study released this year showed that 28% of American households have no Internet at home, including 43% of African American families. The reasons given by those who remain offline provide important insights. The most frequently reported explanation given is that the Internet isn’t relevant to them. Usability was the second-most cited reason. For African American households, the cost of service and equipment are a bigger barrier than for the general population.
The fact is, millions of Americans are not online, despite the benefits. And a disproportionate number of those are in poor and urban communities. To help those individuals and communities prosper in the digital economy, industry is playing a productive role. Programs like Time Warner Cable’s Starter Internet $9.95 service tier, and Time Warner Cable’s “Essentials” plans, which give discounts to Internet users based on their lower bandwidth needs. But more remains to be done.
As a start, government could more actively promote Internet adoption to consumers with whom it has a direct relationship. The FCC and other agencies could highlight the role of regional and local stakeholders, such as the National Urban League, LULAC and NCLR affiliates, and other nonprofits that promote broadband adoption. Time Warner Cable has collaborated with the New York Urban League through our Connect a Million Minds initiative, sponsoring Empowerment Days, to provide science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) mentoring and practical career guidance. Indeed, focusing on locally tailored and relevant solutions was one of the key recommendations in the Urban League Policy Institute’s Connecting the Dots report.
This drives home the value of partnership with the National Urban League and the stakeholders present today. Sharing the power of the Internet with urban America is a complex issue that demands thoughtful solutions. There’s been a lot of study on this topic so far. Thanks to that hard work, a lot of things are pointing us in the right direction. Achieving even higher levels of broadband adoption will require a multifaceted approach. Government, industry and advocates all need to work together and think outside the box. We need careful, disciplined sector-by-sector approaches that suit the need of individual communities and businesses. To make these ideas a reality, we’re proud to partner with the National Urban League.