The U.S. Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) today released its Broadband Adoption Toolkit, a document aimed at sharing best practices developed from broadband adoption and digital literacy projects funded by the Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP). Leveraging the experience of about 100 communities served by BTOP to benefit the entire nation, the Toolkit gives practical ideas and tools for overcoming barriers to getting more Americans online access.
Since its creation, BTOP funded $452 million in grants to cities, libraries, nonprofit organizations, colleges and other groups for projects to teach Americans the digital literacy skills they need to be competitive in the 21st century economy, and to promote the benefits of and provide access to high-speed Internet through public computer centers.
“We developed the toolkit in order to share the expert knowledge and experience of the broadband adoption and computer training projects with a broader base of anchor institutions, government agencies, non-profits and others engaged in this effort,” said Assistant Secretary for Communications and Information and NTIA Administrator Lawrence E. Strickling in a speech at the Schools, Health and Libraries Broadband Coalition’s spring conference. “Our projects reached only a small percentage of the nation’s households, but we want the lessons learned to be available to everyone. And we hope that as the grant program winds down, this toolkit will serve as a legacy and foundation for others to build on as they continue this vital digital inclusion effort.”
NTIA collected many of the best practices developed by BTOP grantees to create the Broadband Adoption Toolkit. This report gives guidance to communities and organizations across the country on how to structure the most effective broadband training programs, set up the most productive computing centers and teach people to use technology to improve their lives. The 68-page publication includes chapters on program planning, outreach, training and curriculum with many practical ideas and tools for bringing new groups online. NTIA utilized the contributions of nearly 40 programs in the toolkit.
Key messages and guidance in the toolkit include the following:
- Make digital literacy programs relevant by teaching skills that can change people’s daily lives, such as how to apply and search for a job online.
- Partner with established community organizations that people know and trust to help engage hard-to-reach populations.
- Provide convenient times and locations for broadband training and computer use to ensure easy access.
- Address the cost of broadband adoption by providing access to discounted computer equipment and/or affordable broadband service.
The toolkit also provides specific examples from BTOP recipients describing the strategies and practices that worked best for their broadband adoption programs. For example, the City of Boston worked with a local organization, Technology Goes Home, to teach participants how using the Internet can save them money, for instance, by cutting out the cost of cashing checks through online banking.
BTOP  has provided funding for 44 Sustainable Broadband Adoption projects and 66 Public Computer Center projects. Through these BTOP investments, more than 500,000 broadband subscribers have been added, more than 41,000 new workstations have been installed and 12.3 million hours of training have been provided to 4.2 million participants. Visit the Connecting America’s Communities map  that illustrates where our BTOP projects are located across the country.
According to NTIA research, almost one-third of Americans do not have broadband at home. Some of the key reasons why people do not use broadband include a lack of access and availability of broadband; the high-cost of broadband service in some areas; and a belief that they do not need broadband service. Whether they lack the skills or the income to become Internet users, these citizens are isolated from the digital mainstream.
The Recovery Act appropriated $4.7 billion for NTIA to establish BTOP to increase broadband access and adoption; provide broadband training and support to schools, libraries, healthcare providers and other organizations; improve broadband access to public safety agencies; and stimulate demand for broadband.
A complete listing of projects funded under BTOP, along with extensive reporting data, can be found at www2.ntia.doc.gov .
Link to Toolkit: http://www2.ntia.doc.gov/files/toolkit_042913.pdf  (23MB)