Kara Swisher

Recent Posts by Kara Swisher

New FCC Report: Reaching the “Digitally Distant,” but “Digital Hopefuls” Too (We’ll Ask Chairman Genachowski About It and More at D8)

The Federal Communications Commission–the regulatory ruler of all kinds of waves, from air to digital–is now ferreting away on a plan to get Americans better hooked up to the Internet, part of a newish government push to digitize this country.

It is set to be released next month and is a long, long time coming, of course, as the U.S. badly lags the rest of the world in high-speed Web access.

The plan will be the big first move by new FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski (pictured here), the longtime Internet exec who has just accepted our invite to appear as a speaker at the eighth D: All Things Digital conference in June.

There will be a lot to talk about with Genachowski, including the report the FCC is releasing today titled “Broadband Adoption and Use in America,” penned by John Horrigan.

The 52-page opus–which you can read in its entirety below–is the first of a series of working papers based on an FCC survey last fall.

It outlines a mostly wired country–as you can see from the detailed chart below (click to make it larger)–with two-thirds having some sort of broadband connection. On average, they pay $41 for that sometimes dubious privilege.

Incredibly, six percent of Americans still use dial-up access and four percent have no broadband at home at all.

Not surprisingly, poor people access the Web a lot less, although longtime gaps among races is closing, with African-Americans and Hispanics gaining in usage and access.

And what do people like to do? Well, for one, they prefer to socialize rather than watch stuff.

And they are becoming more digitally literate, with 61 percent understanding the words “reload” or “refresh.” Still, only 16 percent understand one of Silicon Valley’s favorite terms, “widget.”

Of the third without broadband access, or nonadopters, the FCC splits them into four categories.

The “Digitally Distant” make up 10 percent of the general population, finding the Internet, simply put, useless.

But eight percent are “Digital Hopefuls,” who “like the idea of being online, but lack the resources to connect using broadband.” As in, it is too expensive.

The “Digitally Uncomfortable”–also known as “BoomTown’s mother and Twitter nemesis”–are essentially afraid of having to understand what a widget means.

Finally, 10 percent are “Near Converts,” just one price point away from signing up.

Here is the full report embedded below, as well as one of two highlights videos from an interview Walt Mossberg and I did at D6 with former FCC Chairman Kevin Martin in May 2008.

In it, we harangued Martin about all these issues, using a whole lot of charts showing how the U.S. had very poor but very pricey access.

As you might imagine, we are super looking forward to having Genachowski onstage at D8!