MEDIA Executive Summary Report
April 12, 2023
This report summarizes findings from the Measuring the Effectiveness of Digital Inclusion Approaches (MEDIA) project, which evaluated different programs and regulatory mechanisms to increase residential broadband adoption on a sustainable basis. The project set out to answer fundamental questions about these initiatives, with a focus on those launched after the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, such as program targeting, cost-effectiveness, and subsidy delivery mechanisms. While addressing supply-side deficits remains paramount in many communities, particularly in rural areas, the MEDIA project focused instead on demand-side barriers to residential connectivity. It is also worth noting that several of the initiatives examined in this study are in California, though programs in other states and at the federal level are also examined.
Overall, the findings suggest that the initiatives under evaluation have been reasonably effective at alleviating the cost burden for low-income households that were already connected to broadband, but that reaching disadvantaged families without prior subscription experience and limited resources (both financial and intangible) remains an ongoing challenge. In particular, we find that means-tested programs that require households to initiate requests and submit proof of eligibility to obtain discounted broadband have low participation rates, especially when service choice is limited and programs are not combined with comprehensive community-led outreach efforts. To combat this problem, we present examples of successful local programs that facilitate enrollment by automating eligibility verification or by aggregating demand on behalf of potential beneficiaries. Extrapolating best practices from these programs can significantly improve targeting and program performance on a nationwide scale.
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