Thursday, August 16, 2012

Got an idea to expand broadband in DC?

Are you interested in helping underserved populations access and use broadband Internet?   Have creative ideas to make broadband available and used?

The Office of the Chief Technology Officer (OCTO) has just announced a funding opportunity for the DC-BETA project (DC Broadband Education, Training, and Adoption).   According to the announcement,

The DC-BETA subgrant will support OCTO’s Digital Inclusion Initiative—also known as Connect.DC—by funding projects aimed at OCTO seeks applicants that provide creative and strategic solutions to increase sustainable broadband adoption among the small business community. DC-BETA is made possible by the Broadband Technology Opportunities Program at the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), and funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.

The RFA will be released August 20 and the submission deadline is September 20.

The SpeedMatters piece Survey: Wireless No Substitute For Wired Broadband highlighted the challenges associated with cell phone use for non-call uses identified in the April 2012 Pew report Mobile Phone Problems.   Pew reported nearly 90% of Americans own mobile phones and more than half use the phones for Internet searches, reading email, and the like.   However,

"77% of cell internet users say they experience slow download speeds that prevent things from loading as quickly as they would like. Of those cell internet users, 46% face slow download speeds weekly or more frequently."

Most surprising is the racial and ethnic divide.

"Non-white cell owners confront all four problems at somewhat higher weekly rates than do their white counterparts… For instance, more than half of Hispanic cell internet users (53%) face slow download times at least weekly or more often, compared with 44% of white cell internet users who report this problem."

It may be that these groups, which include a higher proportion of low-income people, purchase cheaper, poorer service. But Pew offered another explanation. The phenomenon:

"… might be tied to the fact that African-Americans and Hispanics are more likely than whites to rely on their cell phones as their primary or exclusive phones for calling and for internet access."

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