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Data, Experimentation and Evaluation needed to Inform Broadband Policy

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Wallsten files Comments with NTIA, NSF on Broadband Research

Amy Smorodin
(202) 828-4405

October 12, 2016 – The National Telecommunications and Information Administration and National Science Foundation’s request for comments on a broadband research agenda is an important step towards a coherent, data-driven national policy, states Technology Policy Institute President Scott Wallsten in comments filed with the agencies. Research on broadband adoption and programs should focus on what could drive consumer demand among the unconnected, experimentation in programs, and independent evaluation on the effectiveness of current policies.

Broadband subsidy programs, “have tended to focus on supply, with little regard to how people use the Internet or what will attract them to it,” explains Wallsten. For example, recent reforms made to the Federal Communications Commission’s Lifeline program failed to acknowledge the results of pilot programs, which suggested subsidies “have little effect on adoption. It is crucial that we understand more about the nature of demand if we are to encourage the remaining non-adopters to join the network.”

Agencies must be able to experiment to determine what programs or actions may or may not increase adoption. “Experimentation should extend beyond adoption issues, as well,” explained Wallsten. “Research can also focus on ways of distributing subsidies and grants in ways that yield the most benefits.”

Research should also focus on independent evaluation of existing programs and determining ways of building evaluation into new programs. “Evaluation should focus on long-term programs that have not yet received any attention, such as broadband subsidies distributed by the Rural Utilities Service, and others that are now ripe for evaluation, such as the Connect America Fund.”

“Any program based on solid data and rigorous analysis is more likely to yield efficient, effective, and equitable outcomes.” Wallsten concludes. “Focusing on these issues and methodologies should enable policymakers to better focus scarce resources in ways that truly improve broadband adoption.””

The comments are available on the TPI website.

The Technology Policy Institute

The Technology Policy Institute is a non-profit research and educational organization that focuses on the economics of innovation, technological change, and related regulation in the United States and around the world. More information is available at http://www.techpolicyinstitute.org/.