This study examines the implementation of a community-level Sustainable Broadband Adoption Program (SBA) under the Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP), a…
This study examines the implementation of a community-level Sustainable Broadband Adoption Program (SBA) under the Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP), a national public policy program meant to expand broadband deployment and adoption under the American Recovery Act of 2009, and administered by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) at the U.S. Department of Commerce. The California Connects Program (CC) was administered by the Foundation for California Community Colleges (FCCC).
This chapter focuses on one part of CC’s efforts to expand broadband adoption among the most underserved Californians through collaboration with the Great Valley Center (GVC). CC-GVC provided basic computer and Internet classes to disconnected populations with low-literacy levels, and primarily in Spanish, through community-based organizations, public schools, public libraries, small businesses, and others in the Central Valley, an 18 county rural region with a high concentration of digital destitute populations. The program worked with under-resourced local community institutions with a range of poor technology resources and that operated under variable set of social, economic, political, and institutional conditions. Through inductive, process-oriented, and explanatory case study research, the structure, strategy, and training approach of CC was examined. Content and theme analysis of primary and secondary qualitative and quantitative data involving the program’s leadership, direct service providers, partners, participants, and nonparticipants was conducted. This involved a sample of 600 in-depth and short, structured and unstructured interviews and focus groups, archival and participant observation notes.
It was found that CC-GVC was able to meet uncertainty and operated with low institutional resources and paucity of linguistically appropriate teaching resources for new entrants through a flexible leadership approach that adapted to the social situation and was open to innovation. Community technology trainers were also able to engage those without or little direct experience with computers and with low-literacy levels with a linguistically appropriate and culturally sensitive step-by-step teaching approach that empowered and met people where they are. The author expands non-adoption models to include structural barriers in the analysis of the disconnected. It is argued that non-adoption is a result of evolving inequality processes fueled by poverty and under-resourced community development institutions and that teaching and learning is a social and institutional process that takes trust and time.
CC shows that even the most disadvantaged can be empowered to learn-to-learn to use computers and can begin to function online and gain benefit under the most extreme institutional and economic conditions, but it takes more time and resources than providers expected and the Recovery Act provided.