Broadband Voucher Programs: Evaluating the Alabama Broadband Connectivity Program
26 Pages Posted: 2 Aug 2022 Last revised: 19 Aug 2022
Date Written: August 2, 2022
There is an emerging debate on effective subsidy mechanisms to help low-income households connect to broadband. The majority of broadband consumer subsidy programs in the U.S. are rebates administered through Internet Service Providers (ISPs). Direct-to-consumer voucher subsidies have been widely applied to non-broadband means-tested programs and are argued to improve consumer choice and increase competition, yet there is limited application for broadband. This paper contributes to this debate by evaluating the Alabama Broadband Connectivity for Students program (ABC) – which to our knowledge is the only digital inclusion program using direct-to-consumer vouchers that has been implemented in the U.S.. We find that ABC participation rate rises with lower median income, more Black and more Hispanic populations, suggesting that the program reached households that were most in need of assistance with broadband adoption. Additionally, we find that ABC participation is a positive predictor of participation in the Emergency Broadband Benefit program, suggesting outreach using trusted messengers and previous experience with broadband is beneficial.
Keywords: digital divide, digital inclusion, broadband, subsidy
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