The Training Difference: How Formal Training on the Internet Impacts New Users

15 Pages Posted: 31 Mar 2015 Last revised: 7 Aug 2015

Date Written: March 31, 2015

Abstract

This paper will address a question that is relevant to stakeholders in the public and private sectors: Have investments in programs to encourage broadband adoption paid off? After five years of attention to the issue (dating to the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act’s investments in the Broadband Technology Opportunities Program and the release of the National Broadband Plan), the question remains relevant in light of ongoing gaps in home broadband adoption in the United States.

The paper will address this question in two ways:

1) A review of research and "best practice" that has arisen in the past several years that has sought to explore broadband adoption programs.

2) Through analysis of a unique longitudinal dataset that interviews new Internet users first within three months of getting home Internet service and a second time eight months later after they have acquired some experience with home Internet service.

The data: For analysis, the paper uses data gathered in a telephone survey of customers of an entry-level broadband Internet service of a major national Internet service provider (ISP). More than 700 respondents were interviewed eight months apart (January 2014 and September 2014). The survey asked respondents’ a number of questions about online activities (e.g., whether they have looked for a job online) and attitudes about Internet use (e.g., its impact on social ties, educational opportunities, etc.). The survey also asked respondents to assess their levels of comfort with computers and the Internet, as well as whether they had formal training on how to use the Internet (through, for example, a local library or a community center).

Analysis: The longitudinal design allows statistical analysis to be conducted that compares results for respondents between Time 1 and Time 2, while controlling for baseline levels of digital skills and other demographic factors. Questions the paper will explore include:

• Are changes in self-reported digital skills attributable to whether the respondent had formal training on the Internet?

• Does the incidence of doing online job searches vary with having had Internet training, controlling for baseline levels of digital skills and/or changes in digital skills over time?

• How large are any impacts from formal Internet training on behavior and attitudes?

The unique contribution of this paper is its use of longitudinal data. To the author’s knowledge, prior research has not interviewed the same set of broadband users comparing behavior early on in their adoption curve with responses at a second time. The ability to assess the impacts of formal Internet training is also unique. Given investments in the public and private sectors to close broadband adoption gaps, the research speaks to stakeholders’ interest in understanding programs aimed at encouraging home broadband adoption. With the Federal Communications Commission beginning the process of adapting the Lifeline program (currently supporting telephone service) to broadband, the research results should be timely for that proceeding.

Keywords: Universal Service, Broadband Adoption, Lifeline Program

Suggested Citation

Horrigan, John B., The Training Difference: How Formal Training on the Internet Impacts New Users (March 31, 2015). TPRC 43: The 43rd Research Conference on Communication, Information and Internet Policy Paper. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2587783 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2587783

John B. Horrigan (Contact Author)

Pew Research Center ( email )

1615 L St N.W.
Suite 700
Washington, DC
United States

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