BEAD — Let’s Not Throw Away Our Shot Part 3 – Adoption

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By: Marc McCarty and Meredith Morrison

When COVID-19 was classified as a pandemic in March 2020, much of our normal in-person activity ceased, and was replaced by a new, “online normal.” Even though millions lacked a broadband connection, without question our ability to remain connected played a critical role in maintaining our workforce, healthcare, and educational institutions in the immediate crisis. For example,

  • By May of 2020, 35% of employees worked remotely full-time through online connection.
  • Within the pandemic’s first three months, telemedicine encounters increased by 766%.
  • In 2020, 77% of public schools moved their classes to a  distance-learning format, and 84% of college students reported either some or all of their classes shifted to online-only instruction.

Since the pandemic’s onset, many things have returned to pre-pandemic normalcy, but the increased reliance on broadband remains a permanent feature of our lives.

  • Approximately 13% of employees work remotely (online) full-time, and 28% maintain a hybrid work schedule.
  • Today digital medical consultations are chosen 38 times more often than before the pandemic. In 2023, 37% of mental health visits took place virtually, followed by infectious disease, obstetrics, and transplant consultations.
  • While students and teachers continue to prefer in-person instruction at least for elementary and secondary students, online learning has clearly become a critical component for post-secondary education. Over half of degree seekers take at least some of their classes online, and over a quarter study exclusively online.

Yet full adoption of the applications that rely on broadband to better our lives continues to be a concern, even in communities with access to high-speed internet infrastructure. This blog addresses some key barriers to broadband adoption and like the two preceding blogs, suggests ways Public Organizations can help increase adoption rates in all communities, especially in those now receiving BEAD funding.

The term broadband “adoption” refers to overcoming three main barriers that prevent communities and residents from using available broadband service to their benefit.

  • Convincing skeptics that they need a fixed high-speed internet connection in their home,
  • Overcoming the privacy concerns and the fear of criminal activity on the internet, and
  • Developing the skills needed to use broadband applications effectively.

Convincing the Skeptics

Some may be surprised that in 2024, there is still a need to make the case for fixed broadband. After all, approximately 4 out of 5  households are already connected with some form of fixed broadband at home. It doesn’t seem unreasonable to conclude that just like the voice calling to Kevin Costner in the movie “Field of Dreams” – “if you build it, they will come” – or in this case if you build out the broadband network, folks will quickly subscribe for the service.  

Unfortunately, the truth is a bit more complicated. The most recent NTIA study found that in the households that still lack a fixed internet connection in the home, nearly 6 out of 10 don’t want or feel they need broadband. That percentage dwarfs those who aren’t online because they think it is too expensive (18%) or those who say they would subscribe if service was available (4%).

Overcoming Privacy and Security Concerns

Digital privacy and security concerns also deter millions of Americans from engaging in online activities. The spread of emerging technologies and practices, such as smart home devices and online activity tracking, puts these concerns at the forefront of adoption.  A 2023 public survey of 7,500 Missouri households showed that eight out of ten respondents cited security of their personal information as their top concern of internet adoption, and over half expressed concern about seeing misleading information.

Developing Digital Skills

A high speed internet connection can enable individuals to receive online treatment from their healthcare provider at home; shop for products, pay bills and bank; apply for government benefits; work from home or start an online business. However, the same technology can sow disinformation and mistrust, steal personal financial data, or create an addictive dependency on social media. Whether the internet is used for good or for evil largely depends on whether the users are equipped with the knowledge and the skills to use broadband effectively.

Adoption Is Critical to the Success of the BEAD Program

The percentage of broadband skeptics is particularly concerning because many of those currently disconnected  reside in rural locations destined to receive the bulk of Missouri’s BEAD funding. Of course, how questions are asked can impact the response, but that should not blind us to the need for a concerted effort to make the case for the use of broadband-based applications, along with the practical digital skills training necessary to navigate the internet safely and securely.

Broadband adoption also is critical from a purely economic standpoint. If those most likely to be the beneficiaries of BEAD funding don’t think they need it, or are afraid to use broadband, ISPs face the prospect of low subscription rates in areas that already have far fewer potential subscribers per mile than urban or suburban areas.

Fortunately, these concerns can be overcome. Over half of the respondents to the 2023 public survey expressed an interest in internet training assistance. “Help finding information and resources I can trust” (33%) and “assistance with setting up or using new devices” (28%) were the top two areas.

Public Organizations’ Role in Broadband Adoption

Public Organizations are uniquely situated to provide adoption programs that will address these concerns for many reasons. First, the improvement of the health, education and economic opportunity of their constituencies is the primary mission of most every Public Organization. Second, in many cases Public Organizations have already established a local connection with the community – and specifically with members of the community most at risk of being unable to use broadband-based applications to better their lives.

Finally, for local governments and related nonprofits many of the beneficial aspects of broadband-based applications lie in the ability to deliver better services more efficiently. Those who have learned to use the internet to apply for a permit, paid taxes, reported problems with utility service or otherwise interacted with local government have found the process is faster and more convenient than making an in-person visit or filling out paper forms and submitting them by mail.

In addition to being more efficient, these same technologies can also result in significant cost savings through reduced personnel and processing. However, when many of the most vulnerable lack the skills necessary to use these technologies, much of the benefit is lost, because two processing systems must be maintained, one that operates online, and a second “paper” system that accommodates those who are unable to use the new technology.

Resources for Adoption

There are literally hundreds of Public Organizations that have developed programs designed to address one or more of the three barriers to digital adoption outlined earlier in this blog. Many can be located through Mobroadband’s Missouri’s Digital Asset Map. This resource, created by the UM System at the request of OBD, is designed to allow organizations that offer digital skills to help individuals and communities quickly locate organizations that offer digital literacy programs, such as computer classes, one-on-one technical assistance centers, and bilingual resources.

Each community may have a different set of needs, and not every program will be appropriate for every community. However, each likely will face three questions.

  • What digital adoption programs does our community need most?
  • How can we integrate and coordinate our efforts with programs like BEAD that focus on internet access?
  • How do we pay for digital adoption?   

There are tools available to answer these threshold questions. One is the Digitally Connected Community Guide offered through MU Extension. The Guide leads community stakeholders to develop a shared vision of ways broadband based applications can promote better health outcomes, online learning and education opportunities and economic opportunity in their community. With that vision, stakeholders are then provided tools to approach and engage with ISPs to create a workable written plan that focuses on using new or expanded networks in ways that implement the community’s vision.

But what programs should the community use? This will vary of course depending on the community’s specific needs. Yet ideally, in every case these adoption programs should be offered by a trusted resource, and ideally they should be capable of addressing each individual’s needs through one-on-one instruction when needed.

One idea that has been successfully piloted by MU Extension in select communities is the Digital Ambassador program. This program trains a permanent cadre of local volunteers called – “Digital Ambassadors.” Trained Digital Ambassadors share specialized knowledge with individuals in their community on topics such as telehealth, cybersecurity, social media, applications like Google Docs and Office 365. Additionally, Digital Ambassadors learn practical skills necessary to help individuals set up their internet connection at home and navigate financial obstacles to broadband use, by accessing programs that subsidize internet service or provide affordable hardware. MU Extension plans to obtain funding to expand the Digital Ambassador program to all communities throughout the state.

Funding Digital Adoption Programs

Of course, Public Organizations must determine how they will pay for digital adoption programs if they are to participate with ISPs to create “digitally connected” communities. Thankfully, one new source of funding are federal grants authorized by the Digital Equity Act. Beginning sometime late summer or early this fall, OBD  is expected to begin accepting applications from Public Organizations for up to $14.2 million in grants to pay for broadband adoption programs. Additional funding, expected to total at least $10 million, should be available over the next two fiscal years under this program.

At the same time, this summer the federal government is scheduled to begin awarding up to $1.25 billion of grants through a competitive digital adoption program administered by NTIA. These programs, along with others already in place, should offer every interested community the opportunity to obtain financial support for broadband adoption programs that can complement and support efforts to build and expand broadband infrastructure over the next five years.

Let’s Not Throw Away Our Shot

The common theme running across this series of blogs is that now is the time for action. There has never been this level of financial support at the federal government level for broadband, and there is every reason to believe this investment will not be repeated, at least in our generation. Missouri has received a significantly greater proportion of this federal funding than other states, primarily because we have a greater need. The percentage of unserved and underserved locations in our state has been among the highest in the country, and our economic progress and our quality of life have suffered because of it.

We now have an opportunity to change that. This is our shot – what will we do with it?

Common Issues with Home Networks and How to Fix Them

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A home network connects multiple devices, such as computers, smartphones, tablets, TVs, printers, and smart home devices, to each other and to the internet. Sometimes you may encounter problems with your home network that affect your online experience. Here are some of the most common issues with home networks and how to fix them:

Slow Internet Speeds

If your internet connection is slow or lagging, you may have several possible causes, such as:

  • Your internet service provider (ISP) may be having issues or throttling (i.e., limiting) your bandwidth because of the service package purchased
  • Your modem or router is outdated or malfunctioning
  • Your network is congested with too many devices or applications
  • Your network is affected by interference from other wireless signals or devices
  • Your device is infected with malware or running too many background processes

To fix slow internet speeds, you can try the following solutions:

  • Update your modem and router firmware to the latest version. Firmware updates can improve performance and security of your network devices.
  • Reduce the number of devices or applications that are using your network. Close any unnecessary tabs or programs on your device and disconnect any devices that are not in use.
  • Change the location or channel of your router. Place your router in a central and elevated position, away from walls, metal objects, and other sources of interference. Change the wireless channel of your router using the router’s web interface or app. Changing the channel of the Wi-Fi may improve signal strength and reduce interference from neighboring routers.
  • Scan your device for malware and remove any suspicious files or programs. Use reputable antivirus software and keep it updated regularly.
  • Restart your device, modem, and router. Sometimes, a simple reboot can clear any temporary issues and improve your network performance.
  • Test your internet speed using an online tool such as and compare it with your ISP’s advertised speed. If there is a significant difference, contact your ISP and report the problem.

Devices Not Connecting

If you have trouble connecting a device to your network, it may be because of one of these reasons:

  • Your device’s Wi-Fi adapter is disabled or faulty
  • Your device’s network settings are incorrect or incompatible
  • Your device’s network drivers are outdated or corrupted
  • Your router’s security settings are blocking your device
  • Your router’s DHCP server is not assigning IP addresses properly. DHCP stands for Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol, which is a service that assigns IP addresses to devices on your network automatically.

To fix connection issues, you can try these solutions:

  • Check your device’s Wi-Fi adapter and make sure it is enabled and working properly. You can use the network troubleshooter on Windows or the wireless diagnostics on Mac to diagnose and fix any problems with your Wi-Fi adapter.
  • Check your device’s network settings and make sure they match your router’s settings. For example, if your router uses WPA2 encryption, your device should also use WPA2 encryption. If your router uses a static IP address, your device should also use a static IP address. WPA stands for Wi-Fi Protected Access.
  • Update your device’s network drivers to the latest version. Network drivers are software that allows your device to communicate with your network hardware. You can update them manually from the device manufacturer’s website or automatically using a driver updater tool from the device manufacturer.
  • Check your router’s security settings and make sure they are not blocking your device. For example, if your router has a MAC (media access card) address filter, you need to add your device’s MAC address to the allowed list. If your router has a firewall, you need to allow the ports and protocols that your device uses.
  • Check your router’s DHCP server and make sure it is enabled and working properly. If DHCP is disabled or malfunctioning, you may need to assign IP addresses manually or reset your router.

Intermittent Connectivity

If your Internet or home network connection drops frequently or randomly, it might be caused by:

  • Your ISP is having outages or maintenance
  • Your modem or router is overheating or overloaded
  • Your network cable is damaged or loose
  • Your wireless signal is weak or unstable
  • Your device is switching between networks

To fix intermittent connectivity, you can try these solutions:

  • Check your ISP’s status page or social media accounts for any reports of outages or maintenance. If there is an issue on their end, you will have to wait until they resolve it.
  • Check your modem and router for any signs of overheating or overload. If they feel hot to the touch or have blinking lights, you may need to cool them down or reduce their workload. You can do this by placing them in a well-ventilated area, unplugging any unnecessary devices, and limiting bandwidth-intensive activities such as streaming or gaming.
  • Check your network cable for any signs of damage or looseness. If the cable is frayed, bent, or disconnected, you may need to replace it or reconnect it securely.
  • Check your wireless signal for any signs of weakness or instability. If the signal is weak or fluctuating, you may need to improve it by moving closer to your router, reducing interference, or using a Wi-Fi extender or mesh network.
  • Check your device for any signs of switching between networks. If your device is connected to multiple networks, such as Wi-Fi and cellular, it may switch between them depending on the signal strength and availability. You can prevent this by disabling the network that you don’t want to use or setting a priority for the network that you want to use.

By following these diagnostics steps and implementing one or more of the solutions provided, you can get your home network and your devices connecting at their fastest speeds and enjoying the information and resources available on the In

Should You Rent or Own Your Home Internet Equipment?

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If you’re thinking about getting Internet in your home for the first time, changing providers, or wondering if you should ask your provider about an equipment upgrade, you may want to consider the option of owning versus renting the equipment that connects you to the Internet.

The equipment that connects your home to the Internet through your provider can consist of a modem, router or Wi-Fi router, or combination router\modem (sometimes called a gateway). Equipment might also include a range extender to enhance the Wi-Fi signal across your home.

There are advantages and disadvantages to owning your own equipment or renting the equipment through your Internet Service Provider (ISP). When you sign up for an Internet plan through your provider, you have the option to rent their equipment and have them perform the installation or buy your own equipment and do the installation yourself with specific instructions from the provider on the initial setup.

Let’s explore the pros and cons of renting or owning the equipment that connects you to the Internet to help determine which option is best for you.

When renting equipment from your Internet Service Provider some of the advantages are:

  • You don’t have to worry about compatibility issues. The equipment is designed to work with your providers’ network and service.
  • You get free upgrades or replacements if the equipment fails or becomes outdated.
  • You get technical support from your provider if you have any problems with the equipment or your internet connection.
  • You can easily return the equipment if you switch ISPs or cancel your service.

Some of the disadvantages to renting equipment from your Internet Service Provider are:

  • You pay a monthly rental fee that can add up over time and cost more than buying your own equipment. This may take several years depending on the equipment used.
  • You may have limited control over some of the features and settings of the equipment, as they are determined by your ISP.
  • You may not get the best performance or security from the equipment, as it may be of low quality or use outdated technology.

When you own your modem, router, and/or Wi-Fi Range Extender to use with your provider, you have some options about where you purchase the equipment and its quality. Your provider may suggest brands they consider compatible with their Internet connection to your home.

The advantages of owning your home networking equipment are:

  • You save money over time, as you don’t have to pay a monthly fee to your provider.
  • You have more control over the features and settings of the equipment, as you can choose the model and brand that suits your needs and preferences.
  • You get better performance and security from the equipment, as you can choose one that uses the latest technology and supports faster speeds and stronger encryption.
  • You can make sure the equipment is updated to the latest operating system or firmware by setting automatic updates.
  • You can keep the equipment if you switch ISPs or cancel your service if it is compatible with other networks.
  • You do not have to wait on a visit by technicians to upgrade or replace failing hardware.

The disadvantages of owning your own home networking equipment are:

  • You must pay upfront for the equipment, which can be expensive depending on the model and brand. You should consider buying the latest equipment which has the latest security features.
  • You must make sure that the equipment is compatible with your ISPs network and service, and that it meets their requirements and specifications.
  • You are responsible for upgrading or replacing the equipment if it fails or becomes outdated. Due to the expense of the equipment, you might want to see if the equipment can be covered through your home or renter’s insurance.
  • You have to troubleshoot any problems with the equipment or your internet connection yourself or seek help from the manufacturer or a third-party service.

After reading about the pros and cons of owning versus renting home network equipment, how do you decide which option is better for you?

Several things to consider in your decision are:

  • Your budget: how much can you afford to spend upfront to buy equipment or spend monthly to rent your home networking equipment?
  • Your needs: what kind of features and performance do you want from your routing equipment?
  • Your preferences: do you value convenience and simplicity, or customization and flexibility?
  • Your plans: how long do you intend to use your current ISP and internet service?

You may want to consider renting the equipment if you:

  • Have a limited budget and don’t want to pay upfront for your routing equipment.
  • Don’t care much about the features and performance of your networking equipment.
  • Prefer to have technical support from your ISP if anything goes wrong.
  • Plan to switch providers or cancel your service in the near future.

Consider owning your home networking equipment if you:

  • Have enough money to buy your own routing equipment.
  • Want to have more control over the features and performance of your routing equipment.
  • Are comfortable with troubleshooting any issues yourself or seeking help elsewhere.
  • Plan to stick with your current ISP and internet service for a long time.

Renting versus owning your home networking equipment is a personal choice that depends on several factors including convenience, support, and flexibility, savings, control, and performance.

Before deciding between renting or owning your home networking equipment, weigh the pros and cons of each option carefully, and consider your budget, needs, preferences, and plans. Ultimately, choose the option that works best for you and your home internet experience.