The #MobileOnly Conversation

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.



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:



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:



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.



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:











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