Yesterday Next Century Cities wrapped up the #MobileOnly Challenge, an online campaign that drew attention to the significant limitations of mobile-only internet service. The challenge was formulated in response to the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) proposal to both lower the federal broadband speed standard and to consider mobile service an adequate replacement for a fixed home broadband connection.
Why #MobileOnly ? FCC NOI 17-199, Section 19, referencing mobile: “Would a download speed benchmark higher or lower than 10 Mbps be appropriate for the purpose of assessing American consumers’ access to advanced telecommunications capability?” We say no. https://t.co/vjCDTN0IYv
— Next Century Cities (@NextCentCit) December 31, 2017
In 2016, 12% of adult Americans were “mobile-only” internet users, meaning they owned smartphones but did not have home broadband subscriptions. This statistic varies widely across income levels, suggesting that cost is often a barrier to home broadband adoption: 21% of those earning less than $30,000 per year were mobile-only, while the same could only be said for 5% of those earning $75,000 or more.
The FCC’s proposal that mobile service be considered a replacement for fixed home broadband ignores the significant limitations of mobile-only service, including prohibitive cost, unreliable service, data caps and limited accessibility. While mobile internet is a valuable tool, we should be working toward bringing fixed, high-speed broadband to all Americans, not settling for a lower standard.
To draw attention to the inadequacy of a mobile-only connection, the #MobileOnly Challenge asked participants to spend one day accessing the internet via only their mobile device — foregoing desktop devices or laptops with fixed connections — and to document their experience using the hashtag #MobileOnly. The challenge sparked a robust conversation on Twitter and beyond:
Mobile service isn’t a substitute for a fixed home internet connection, especially when it comes to #DigitalEquity tasks like completing homework or finding job opps. On Friday, join https://t.co/4N5BP8SW3Q to show @FCC that the country needs better. #DigitalDivide #MobileOnly pic.twitter.com/Oh35ajCUog
— Cooney Center (@CooneyCenter) January 24, 2018
Turns out I barely get 3G near my auto mechanic… Slow news updates on my #mobileonly day. Also my phone battery is quite depleted from so much use. Already used more data today than in last 2 weeks.
— Christopher Mitchell (@communitynets) January 19, 2018
I didn’t even try. Changed cloud backup providers. Currently pushing 750GB through a fixed 15Mbps upstream pipe and have been at it for days. No way with #MobileOnly.
— Glen Akins (@bikerglen) January 19, 2018
My phone won’t even download calendar invites so I’ve been awkwardly asking my coworkers when all of my meetings are #MobileOnly
— Emily Van Dusen (@emilyvandee) January 23, 2018
Mobile service on a smartphone is not an adequate replacement for a home Internet connection in #rural #Appalachia. Spend one day using #MobileOnly and you will find out why. Hey @FCC we deserve better. @AjitPaiFCC @RepMGriffith @MarkWarnerVA @timkaine
— SummerMullinsRunyon (@PineMtnLover) January 18, 2018
Just went to a local retailer’s online store with the intention of ordering multiple items. Mobile site would only let me order one thing at a time. Blunders on several levels. Potential loss of sale for local business because I’m #mobileonly today. #mobileonly @FCC @AjitPaiFCC
— Lisa Gonzalez (@lisamg07) January 13, 2018
My community doesn’t try #mobileonly for a day, they live it every day. State & Federal Candidates: Our students and businesses need high-speed internet yesterday. Our cities & counties cannot fix this alone. https://t.co/VIuV5kPiqx
— Laura Dapkus (@sheepboutique) January 21, 2018
— K’Tetch (@ktetch) January 12, 2018
I have been #MobileOnly for over a decade and believe me, it is NOT an acceptable substitution for high-speed (100mbps) broadband. My only alternative is AT&T 768 kbps DSL and that is worthless ($30/mo). I’ve tried satellite, but that too can’t compete as high speed broadband. pic.twitter.com/weYzAm8ECe
— Rick Osborn (@Rick_In_NC) January 11, 2018
— Seth (@tomegnome) January 11, 2018
FCC Commissioners Mignon Clyburn and Jessica Rosenworcel, Kansas City, Mo. Mayor Sly James, San Leandro, Calif. Mayor Pauline Russo Cutter, and the City of Fayetteville, Ark., all joined in on the conversation:
My staff and I are in full #MobileOnly mode today. It didn’t take long to see how inconvenient this is. While temporary for us, too many are #MobileOnly everyday, not by choice but b/c a fixed #broadband connection is either unavailable or unaffordable. #digitaldivide
— Mignon Clyburn (@MClyburnFCC) January 26, 2018
Thanks to today’s #MobileOnly Challenge, I was forced to pull out the specs… Being dependent on a small screen is definitely tough on “mature” eyes. Too many #Americans don’t have a choice. They rely on #MobileOnly for school, job applications & more. #digitaldivide pic.twitter.com/kLzSNCh81S
— Mignon Clyburn (@MClyburnFCC) January 26, 2018
Tweeting on the phone is easy. But completing homework, applying for jobs or scholarships is not. Yet too many students in the US have #MobileOnly internet access at home. We need to close this #HomeworkGap and turn more of our kids from digital consumers into digital creators.
— Jessica Rosenworcel (@JRosenworcel) January 26, 2018
Have you tried writing a research paper on a smart phone? Data caps, battery limitations, and unreliable service can mean the difference for students. A mobile device is NOT the same as a home internet connection. I’m going #MobileOnly today, because OUR students deserve more. pic.twitter.com/Y9W9cuGEJR
— Mayor Sly James (@MayorSlyJames) January 26, 2018
Spare 1 day this January to let @FCC & @AjitpaiFCC know that we in #SanLeandro do not agree to lowering of high-speed broadband standards! Smartphone mobile service is NOT equal to home connection.Take the #MobileOnly Challenge in January! https://t.co/REQr1aYPj6 @CitySanLeandro
— Pauline Russo Cutter (@mayorcutter) December 19, 2017
Are you willing to take the #MobileOnly challenge? What will you be giving up? Read the blog and take the survey here: https://t.co/wV2W4cTQ3L, then tweet us your experiences! pic.twitter.com/Kxqao0TgIp
— CityofFayettevilleAR (@FYVgov) January 25, 2018
After nearly three weeks of pressure from the #MobileOnly Challenge, the FCC announced on January 18 that it would maintain the broadband standard of 25/3 Mbps, and acknowledged that mobile service is not a full substitute for fixed broadband.
While the success was rightfully celebrated, there is still work to be done to connect all Americans with fast, affordable, reliable high-speed broadband.
Glad @FCC decided not to lower national #broadband standard from 25 Mbps to 10 Mbps. But let’s not kid ourselves. It’s time for a higher standard, like 100 Mbps. When we set audacious goals we can do big things. We need to do better than dream small if we want to lead the world.
— Jessica Rosenworcel (@JRosenworcel) January 19, 2018
— Deb Socia (@dsocia) January 20, 2018
Consider writing a letter to the FCC or contacting your representatives in congress to raise your concerns about the lack of adequate and affordable access that millions of Americans experience. The more voices, the better — and thank you to all who participated in this important conversation.
Thank you to our partner organizations for contributing their voices to this fight: