Friday, November 20, 2009

The "digital divide" still exists in a big way for America's poorest citizens.

[PRNewswire] The "digital divide" still exists in a big way for America's poorest citizens. A major new survey by Options Marketing Research and Consulting, Inc. (OMRC) finds that four out of five low-income Americans now benefiting from SafeLink Wireless(R), the fast-growing TracFone Wireless, Inc. version of the federal Lifeline program that aims to ensure universal telecommunications access, have no access to the Internet at home and even fewer - just 10 percent - have access to broadband at home.

The 10 percent broadband penetration level is among the lowest found to date among adult Americans. For example, it is far below the 63 percent of all adults, 35 percent of all households earning $20,000 or less, and 30 percent of senior citizens reported in the June 2009 home broadband adoption report from the Pew Research Center's Internet & American Life Project.

SafeLink Wireless from TracFone, America's leading prepaid cell phone provider, is the first and only free offering of Lifeline -- a U.S. government supported program that ensures telephone service is available and affordable for eligible low-income households. The SafeLink Wireless service now provides more than two million eligible low-income households with a free cell phone, mobile access to emergency services and a set number of free minutes for one year. The cell phone offers in-demand features: voicemail, text, call waiting, international calling to over 60 destinations and caller ID. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) created the Lifeline program in 1984 and worked to update the service after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, as well as the 9/11 tragedy.

Robin Naismith, vice president, Options Marketing Research and Consulting, said: "What we have uncovered here in these survey findings is a group of Americans who have not been parsed out sufficiently in previous surveys to recognize that they are way behind the curve when it comes to the benefits of broadband in the home. This very likely is due to the fact that, until TracFone came along, no one else had made such an aggressive effort to reach out and plug these Americans into the FCC's Lifeline program. The result is that we are getting a window for the first time into the lives of millions of Americans who are not yet part of the Age of Broadband."

Naismith added: "These findings should be of great interest to Congress and the Obama Administration as they look at how to deliver on promises of extending the important economic and educational potential of broadband to all Americans. We hear a lot of talk these days about how the 'digital divide' is either disappearing or already gone. However, what this survey clearly shows is that there remains a persistent pocket of millions of America's poorest people who need to be recognized and put at the front of the line as the people who will benefit the most from universal broadband access."

Titled "Internet Access, Usage and Interest Among SafeLink Users," the new OMRC survey looks at the broadband use and attitudes among 1,000 recipients of SafeLink Wireless. The survey was commissioned by TracFone Wireless.

Other key survey findings include the following:

* 52 percent of all SafeLink users would like to have broadband access at home.
* 32 percent would like to have Broadband access at home but do not own a computer.
* Affordability is a key concern for SafeLink users. Half said that broadband access would have to be free (38 percent) or cost less than $10 a month (12 percent) to fit into their budget. Seven out of 10 said that a computer would have to be free (54 percent) or under $100 (16 percent) in order to be something that would work for them.
* The average respondent was a female in her late 40s.
* More than three out of four SafeLink users (77 percent) said they would use their broadband access to search for a job or other employment opportunities. Nearly nine out of 10 (88 percent) highlighted educational uses for their broadband, 81 percent to send or receive email and 60 percent for online commercial transactions.

OMRC Survey: 'Huge' Broadband Access Gap at Home Persists Among Low-Income Americans Receiving Federal Safelink Wireless Cell Phone Aid Under Lifeline
see also OMR survey

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