Not everyone's interested in broadband

A teenager uses the Internet on a computer

TEXT OF STORY

Kai Ryssdal: High-speed connections are where it's at in the Internet. Google, as we mentioned to you a couple of days ago, is working on a big broadband project. The Obama administration is spending billions of dollars to bring high-speed access to virtually every corner of the country. Today, though, the Commerce Department reported that even in places where broadband is available, not everybody wants it. Seems for all the fuss, a lot of people just aren't interested.

Marketplace's Nancy Marshall Genzer reports.


NANCY MARSHALL GENZER: Lots of us couldn't imagine life without high-speed Internet. And Congress has been spending billions so that everyone has access to it, if they want it. But the Commerce Department did a survey last fall, and found that 38 percent of the households surveyed who don't have broadband, just don't want it. Who are they?

LARRY STRICKLING: It will be older Americans, it will be less educated Americans, it will be poorer populations.

Larry Strickling heads the branch of the Commerce Department that released the data. Strickling says the government is not just focused on expanding broadband access. It's also funding programs that teach computer and Internet skills. Strickling says, today, broadband in the home is essential.

STRICKLING: If you want to apply for a job you need to be on the Internet. If children want to do their homework, they need to have broadband access. So it's very hard to be successful in today's society without this access.

Joseph Turow is a professor of communications at the University of Pennsylvania. He says seniors might be more interested in broadband if they knew that hospitals are starting to use it to monitor patients in their homes.

JOSEPH TUROW: Even having a physician in a hospital watch a nurse or an aide do a certain kind of procedure to make sure it's being done correctly.

The Commerce Department also found that people don't have broadband because it's too expensive.

Jeff Chester heads the Center for Digital Democracy. He says the government should force the big companies to rent space on their high-speed networks to smaller competitors.

JEFF CHESTER: You don't want to have a choice between A or B -- cable or phone. You want to have dozens of providers with different kinds of plans.

Chester says that would force prices down. He thinks, if the price is right, interest in broadband will suddenly pick up.

In Washington, I'm Nancy Marshall Genzer for Marketplace.

About the author

Nancy Marshall-Genzer is a senior reporter for Marketplace based in Washington, D.C. covering daily news.

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