Jack geller challenges of measuring broadband adoption
Challenges ofMeasuring Broadband Adoption Jack M. Geller, Ph.D. University of Minnesota-Crookston
The MIRC Project in RetrospectMIRC was funded through the U.S. Department ofCommerce, National Telecommunications andInformation Administration Broadband TechnologyOpportunities Program (BTOP).It was categorized as one of many SustainableBroadband Adoption (SBA) projects.As such its “primary goal” was to increasesustainable broadband adoption throughout ruralMN and specifically in the 11 demonstrationcommunities
NTIA definitions of key metrics for reporting purposes:– Household Subscriber: a household with a paid or unpaid (subsidized) home broadband Internet connection service.– User: “Regular user” of broadband at a public computer center, friend’s home, workplace, etc.; a user may have a Smartphone or subscribe to an Internet information service, but it does not count as a home broadband connection.– Adopter: This term is not used in the NTIA Metrics
While the BTOP-SBA program has a goal ofsustainable broadband adoption, there really is nota clear definition of adoption.• Is any regular user counted as an adopter?• What about regular users who choose to onlyaccess the Internet from work, a public library oranywhere else other than home?•Should adoption focus on households or people?
What and How do we count for MIRCThe MIRC assessment began with two householdsurveys in June 2010:5.A statewide survey across all of rural Minnesota toestablish a statewide baseline for Rural MN.2. Separate community surveys for each of the 11MIRC demonstration communities.We must understand that all adoption numbers aresimply quantitative estimates. They are derived fromsamples of those who self-report.
Baseline Adoption Estimates June 2010Benton County 66.3 %Cook County 50.2 %Itasca County 63.3 %Kandiyohi County 64.0 %Leech Lake 48.8 %Stevens County 64.4 %TRF 59.4 %Windom 62.7 %Winona 69.2 %Worthington 53.9 %Upper MN Valley 57.6 %MIRC Average 61.7 %Rural MN Average 64.0 %
Since that time the MIRC project evaluation has beenestimating new subscribers in each of the elevendemonstration communities every quarter.To do this we have been working with a third-partyprovider to monitor Internet traffic and transactions inevery rural Minnesota County. This monitoringidentifies:•The number of unique IP addresses identified in the definedgeography.•The speed of the connection.•The provider/carrier.
Caveat: We cannot assume that changes in the numberof subscriptions will directly translate into an equalchange in the adoption rate.Example: Your community has a current adoption rate of65% and 10 new families move to town. However, only5 of the new families purchase a broadband connection.Result: The number of broadband subscribers in yourcommunity increases while your adoption rate decreases!Remember: Estimates are just that … estimates.
Current Estimated Percentage Increases in New Subscribers for All Demo sitesBenton County 8.9 %Cook County 11.9 %Itasca County 8.5 %Kandiyohi County 9.4 %Leech Lake 8.4 %Stevens County 9.0 %TRF 9.5 %Windom 9.8 %Winona 8.6 %Worthington 9.5 %Upper MN Valley 8.5 %
Putting it in PerspectiveWith these caveats in mind, at the beginning of 2012 weestimated that broadband adoption increased 7.4 percent in theMIRC communities, while the rest of rural MN increased by 5.7percent.… Well doesn’t seem like much of a difference!While this difference may seem quite modest at first glance, it isimportant to recognize that this means the pace of broadbandadoption in the MIRC communities is actually 29.8% faster thanin the rest of rural Minnesota.
What’s Next?3.Surveys are currently being conducted across the state and in the 11demonstration communities to replicate the ones conducted in June 2010. Thesestudies will provide the final Post-MIRC adoption estimates for the project andwill be used to quantify the progress made in broadband adoption.5.These surveys will also serve to help us verify our method of estimatingbroadband adoption through the monitoring of Internet traffic. If these methodsverify each other, it raises the question: Do we need to conduct surveys anymore?7.Once we estimate the change in adoption for each Demo community, we willtry to correlate the change in adoption with changes in other project outcomes; For example:•Activity conducted by MIRC Partners•Changes in the Community Benchmarks•Outcomes reported by Demo Communities
Considerations as we Look Ahead•We are nearing the end of the adoption curve. Therefore a future focus onutilization will be more valuable than the current focus on adoption.•The definition of a broadband subscription needs to include cellular broadbandconnectivity.• For example, if cell phones were excluded, it would appear that telephoneadoption is plummeting, as households continue to drop their landlines eachmonth. But are people actually less connected?• 4G data networks are now reaching connection speeds that are clearly broadbandquality.• Similar to the experience with cell phones, are we already witnessing someconsumers abandon their terrestrial broadband connection in favor of mobilebroadband?• In fact, the statewide broadband survey currently underway will be the firstwhere we will no longer assume that residents use a computer as their applianceconnecting them to the Internet. Rather … we will ask.