Today I was invited to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to testify at one of the agency's Broadband Working Group workshops. This particular workshop was on "Broadband Consumer Context," which focused on "a range of challenges and opportunities as the internet becomes a focal point for commercial transactions, social networking, and a host of activities pertaining to information gathering and exchange."
I was asked to address the issue of whether there is a relationship between online safety concerns and broadband uptake. In my testimony, I noted that, in my 15 years of research in this area, I have never unearthed any substantive empirical evidence suggesting a correlation between parental concerns about online activity and overall household broadband uptake. I have seen occasional anecdotal news stories discussing the concerns some parents have had about their kids online that led them to reject online connectivity, but these stories have been exceedingly rare (and I haven't seen any in recent memory).
I also argued that I did not think it at all surprising that such anecdotes are harder to find, or that empirical evidence on this front seems non-existent. I argued that there were four logical explanations for why parental concerns about online safety haven't "moved the broadband needle" much in the negative direction:
- Not every home has children present
- Parents use a variety of household media rules to control media & Internet usage
- A vibrant marketplace of parental control technologies exists
- Likely that most parents believe that the benefits of broadband outweigh the potential downsides
For all the details on each of those, read my entire testimony or check out the presentation embedded below that I made to the FCC today.