Broadband Subsidy Programs Help Deliver Affordable Internet Access

Source: PEW Trusts

Research points to benefits of collaboration and targeted enrollment for effective implementation

State and federal programs have improved the availability of high-speed internet, but cost remains the primary barrier to broadband adoption for low-income households. To address this, the federal government has created consumer subsidies, such as those included in the Affordable Connectivity Program, to ease cost burdens. Research indicates that simplifying enrollment, working closely with community partners, and implementing a single, national policy focused on increasing access all can help boost participation.

To better understand the potential strengths and shortcomings of specific policies, The Pew Charitable Trusts partnered with the University of Southern California’s Annenberg Research Network on International Communication and the California Emerging Technology Fund in 2021 to research the subject. The work is part of the Measuring the Effectiveness of Digital Inclusion Approaches (MEDIA) project, a multiyear research effort to evaluate the impact of various digital inclusion strategies. Incorporating best practices into ongoing interventions will help both deliver assistance to consumers and network operators and boost sustainable broadband access in the years to come.

Researchers examined three approaches to subsidies: consumer subsidy programs, public benefit obligations, and public procurement programs. The results show that robust enrollment campaigns, community-first partnerships, and meaningful participation from internet service providers (ISPs) are essential components of successful programs.

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