Obama's Online Opportunities

  • December 04, 2008
  • By John B. Horrigan

There is no shortage of suggestions to the incoming Obama administration about what to do about communications policy in the United States. America's middling standing in world rankings on broadband adoption has served as a call to arms for the new administration to develop a national broadband strategy to boost the economy, aid the environment and improve delivery of health care and government services.

The body of research from the Pew Internet Project, dating to 2000, indicates that online Americans might have one more suggestion: Make sure the internet remains a place where users define what it means to be digitally connected. To help understand what that means for policymakers, let's first review how user behavior has evolved in the past decade.

In the 1990s, the promise of advanced networks had to do with one-to-many communication. That is, applications such as distance education or telemedicine would connect a single expert to a far wider audience than was previously possible; high-speed networks would deliver this to the home. In this vision, users benefit from information flows, but are not central actors in the information commons.

Read the full report Obama's Online Opportunities on the Pew Research Center's Web site.