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Clyburn Focuses On Last 'Half-Mile' Adoption

In her first policy speech as an FCC commissioner, Democrat Mignon Clyburn said that she would be staking out broadband adoption as a major focus, saying that is one half of the "last mile" problem.

That came in a speech Monday to the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies in Washington.

"[W]hat I will be spending much of my waking hours tackling over the coming weeks is the issue of broadband adoption," she said, according to a copy of her speech.

She said that price is one stumbling block, but only one. She cited a Pew study that found that a half of adults in the U.S. who don't use the Internet cite relevance, rather than availability and affordability.

Saying there was a lot of talk about the last mile--the physical plant that reaches the customer--she said that, instead, it should be seen as two half miles.

"The other half – the other half-mile, if you will – is all about whether or not the consumer chooses to engage with the technology," she said.

Clyburn, who is African American, said that the FCC must try to figure out "what makes all kinds of consumers tick" and that the African American community would be an "excellent template" for that project. She pointed out that adoption of wireless handheld devices by African Americans is "off the charts," while "a disproportionate number of African Americans" have yet to adopt broadband.

She emphasized that many answers will need to be sought outside the Beltway. She said the FCC's Oct. 6 broadband hearing, the second such hearing (the first was Monday in Austin, Tex., hosted by Commissioner Meredith Attwell Baker) would be an adoption workshop in Charleston in her home state of South Carolina.

She said she would also travel to rural Charleston County to hear from consumers, and would make that kind of communication standard operating procedure whenever she travels.