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Sunday, September 29 • 11:45am - 12:20pm
Digital Haves and Have-Nots: Internet and Broadband Usage in Canada and the United States

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The Internet has become a fundamental part of the worldwide economic and social infrastructure. It provides businesses, communities and individuals with a common global platform for communication and commerce. Internet-adopting nations have experienced enhancements to productivity, global competitiveness, and job growth. According to International Telecommunications Union (ITU) estimates, one-third of the world?s population of 7 billion were Internet users in 2011 [ITU, 2012].

In parallel, the increasingly intelligent mobile phone has become the most widely used communications device in the world. The ITU estimates that there were some 6 billion mobile service subscriptions by the end of 2011, that mobile broadband services grew by 40 percent worldwide in 2011, and that there are now twice as many mobile broadband subscriptions as fixed ones. The Boston Consulting Group forecasts [BCG, 2012] that by 2016, mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets could account for four out of five broadband connections.

Smartphones are already in widespread use, tablet computers are becoming increasingly popular, and laptops now compete with desktop PCs in functionality. As high-speed mobile Internet service becomes more readily available and affordable, mobile devices are being used widely for business applications as well as for personal and social purposes. As use of the broadband platform changes from primarily wireline to increasingly wireless, this will create challenges of both measurement and understanding. Particular attention needs to be paid to the growth of mobile broadband services and usage.

This paper builds on the 2012 TPRC paper by the same authors, on broadband adoption and use in Canada and the United States [McConnaughey et al, 2012]. Although very different in their population densities, the two countries have many similarities in terms of geography, demographic patterns, socio-economic factors, and challenges hindering universal broadband Internet adoption. The paper focuses on a comparison and evaluation of broadband adoption and usage results from major national surveys: the Statistics Canada Canadian Internet Use Survey (CIUS) for the years 2005, 2007, 2009, 2010, and 2012, and the U.S. Census Bureau?s Current Population Survey (CPS) Computer and Internet Use Supplement for the years 2009, 2010, 2011, and 2012. Broadband Internet availability data and subscription rates come from the CRTC?s annual Communications Monitoring Report as well as the NTIA?s National Broadband Map and the FCC?s Internet Use Services (FCC Form 477) reports. The CPS results used in this paper are taken from the Digital Nation series of reports published by the Department of Commerce.

In our analysis, we examine online activities in detail. We pay particular attention to usage disparities based on socio-demographic categories and geographic location of use, as reported in rural and urban areas. Subject to data limitations, we also look at mobile usage (e.g., how the use of smartphones and other mobile devices may differ from use of PCs from a fixed location), and whether a ?Mobility Divide? might be starting to develop. Further, we explore policy ramifications in light of our findings regarding online activity patterns, drawing comparisons and contrasts between Canada and the United States where appropriate. Detailed breakouts by socio-demographic factors and geography give information on which to base targeted demand side policies. Such policies can both address adoption and usage gaps and can complement the more usual supply side policies used to address availability shortfalls.


Prabir Neogi

Visiting Fellow, Retired
I am a retired Canadian public servant and a TPRC "old hand", having attended the Conference regularly since 1992. My broad areas of interest are: Broadband communications (both mobile and wireline), universality issues including urban-rural gaps, and the transformative uses of ICTs... Read More →

Sunday September 29, 2013 11:45am - 12:20pm PDT
GMUSL Room 120

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