Why does the Internet matter?

Over the course of two years, the e-Vermont Community Broadband Project posed this question to both people who couldn’t imagine life without the Internet and people who couldn’t imagine why they would want the Internet in their lives.

It’s a fair question.

In 2010 – 2012, the length of our project, the state of Vermont was in the process of deploying $410 million in federal investment plus private capital to bring broadband (high speed Internet) to all Vermonters by the end of 2013. In 2011, the Governor established the ConnectVT office to coordinate these efforts and the website broadbandvt.org launched to let Vermonters find service and report gaps.

In these same years, the Pew Internet & American Life Project reported that:

  • 1 in 5 American adults don't use the Internet
  • 1 in 3 adults in low-income households don't use the Internet
  • 65% of seniors don't used the Internet.

(See full report here)

Do these non-users think that the Internet matters? Studies on Internet use have consistently found that when households have broadband available to them and do not subscribe, the number one reason given by respondents is that they don’t see the Internet’s relevance to their lives.

(See, for example, Exploring the Digital Nation)

Broadband can be transformative for economic development, community communications, education, health, government, all aspects of rural life – but only if we use it effectively. Not using this resource also affects future infrastructure development. Service providers often balk at building out into rural areas because the low number of subscriptions makes for a poor return on investment. Improving adoption rates bolsters the economic case for bringing broadband to all of Vermont. This rule applies not only for today’s high speed Internet, but also for the deployment of tomorrow’s digital technologies.

In 2009, the Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP), an American Recovery and Reinvestment Act project, announced their Sustainable Broadband Adoption (SBA) grants program. The e-Vermont partners came together to apply for these funds to increase rural broadband adoption rates using an approach built around community. This community focus meant two principal things:

  1. E-Vermont listened to a community’s needs, goals, opportunities, and interests, and matched online tools in response.
  2. E-Vermont partners entered a community with deep expertise in a particular sector – including education, business, community development and municipal government – then brought the lessons they learned on the ground together into a broader understanding of whole-community needs.

(See also: Community Conversations Toolkit)

The e-Vermont Community Broadband Project received one of only 12 grants in SBA's first round. A strong group of additional funders matched the federal grant funds and the program launched in spring of 2010 with the selection of communities to receive services.

This report provides details accomplishments and lessons learned throughout our program.

Return to Report Menu

See also: