“The 29 percentage point increase we’ve seen in Tennessee’s broadband adoption rate since 2007 is a game-changer for economic and workforce development,” said Gary Farlow, president/CEO of the Cleveland/Bradley County Chamber of Commerce and current president of the Tennessee Economic Development Council.
“The world-class companies we are recruiting today require not only the broadband infrastructure to support their business needs, but also a digitally literate workforce that is capable of using modern technology. While the increases we’ve seen in broadband adoption are certainly encouraging, Tennessee’s 238,000 school-age children still without broadband in their home shows that work remains to move all of tomorrow’s workforce across the digital divide.”
The survey was conducted in late 2013 and includes responses from 3,606 adult residents in support of Connected Tennessee’s efforts to close Tennessee’s digital gap and explores the barriers to broadband adoption among various demographics and the types of activities subscribers conduct online, among other issues.
Corey Johns, Connected Tennessee executive director, said, “In 2007, Tennessee trailed the national average for broadband adoption and was recognized as a technology-challenged state. Today’s announcement that our state has now led the national average for three years running serves as validation that we are on the right track and moving more Tennesseans online. While we are excited to see Tennessee emerging as a technology leader, there are still more than 691,000 households that do not subscribe to home broadband — primarily due to lack of awareness of the benefits of broadband, cost barriers, and inadequate digital skills — and important work remains to move our 28 percent of non-adopting Tennesseans across the digital divide.”
Farlow commended Connected Tennessee for bringing an awareness to the need for broadband access and working with several programs to accomplish that. Connected Tennessee is an independent, nonprofit organization working to accelerate the availability and use of technology across Tennessee.
“From an industry perspective the world is computerized now,” Farlow explained. “We work on a global level so we have to have the same kind of access as the rest of the world, if not better. That’s one of the things we’re very happy about — that Tennessee is making progress in that area. Hopefully, as we go forward we’ll be able to attract the kind of industry that this kind of access gets us.”
Farlow said in the school system it’s important for everyone to have broadband access — not only at school but at home as well.
“That’s one of the areas we still have room to work on,” he said. “With all the testing that’s going on now, and what they’re going to be dealing with when they get in the work world, they are going to have to be computer savvy. Getting that kind of access and training while they’re in school and then being able to go home and do it on their own computer is still a bit of a challenge.”
The fact that more than 238,000 school-age children in Tennessee need broadband access at home and nearly 1.5 million working-age adults in Tennessee need assistance with going online, using a word processor or sending emails — tasks that are often required by employers, proves there is plenty of room for improvement.
Other key findings of the 2013 residential survey are: More than half of Tennessee adults (53 percent) use mobile broadband service, up from 27 percent in 2010 when Connected Tennessee began measuring this trend. More than 3 out of 4 non-adopters in Tennessee say it would be easier for them to shop, seek out healthcare information or interact with government offices if they had Internet access at home.
Among those who subscribe to home broadband in Tennessee are 60 percent of adults with disabilities, 60 percent of African-Americans, 57 percent of Hispanics, and 53 percent of residents age 65 or older. Less than half of low-income households (44 percent) subscribe to home broadband. The research findings are available on the Connected Tennessee website, where viewers can track the growth in mobile adoption, examine barriers to adoption and compare adoption rates since 2007.
Connected Tennessee conducted the residential survey as part of the State Broadband Initiative grant program, funded by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration. According to the Pew Research Center, “In recent years Internet-connected mobile devices such as smartphones have exploded in popularity, offering an alternate form of ‘home’ Internet access. Today 56 percent of American adults own a smartphone of some kind, compared with 70 percent who have broadband at home.”
As Tennessee’s state broadband initiative, Connected Tennessee is a public-private partnership that joins with technology-minded businesses, government entities, universities, and nonprofit organizations to improve economic development and enhance quality of life by accelerating Tennessee’s technology landscape. For more information about what Connected Tennessee is doing to expand broadband access, adoption, and use, visit www.connectedtn.org.