September 2020 – The Wireless RERC, in collaboration with Georgia Tech’s Center for the Development and Application of Internet of Things Technologies and Center for Advanced Communications Policy submitted comments to the Department of Commerce on September 17th in response to their Public Notice NTIA Internet Use Survey Questionnaire Development [Docket No. 200813-0218]. This survey is one of the NTIA’s long-standing questionnaires and is distributed to approximately 50,000 homes across the United States. It supplements the periodically administered Current Population Survey (CPS) that gauges national labor force statistics and provides information on digital use. The Wireless RERC’s comments noted concerns about the nature of some of the questions in survey that may cause respondents to provide less than accurate answers due to social standing. Other concerns related to the survey questions included wariness about the way in which questions are worded. They may not be clear to people with mild cognitive impairments, learning disabilities, or for whom English is a second language.
The RERC also recommended that NTIA should include additional questions to the NTIA Internet Use Survey. We argued that it would be useful to have questions related to Internet of Things (IoT) devices, services, and use cases. In our comments, we explicitly name one set of IoT-related devices that have not been assessed in the NTIA Survey: voice input devices (such as Amazon Echo or Apple Siri). These devices’ deployment is prominent particularly in smart homes and for those with disabilities who use the technology to navigate their environment. We suggested that NTIA probe into accessibility, perceptions, and barriers to adoption of these devices. Two other areas that we suggest the NTIA Survey expound on includes: characteristics of survey participants, accessibility and usability of technology, and accessibility of emergency and governmental services (such as IPAWS). Finally, the RERC suggests that questions about wearables, the complexity of their use, and the cost of devices are added to the survey. This invaluable information would allow neutral authorities to develop technological and policy interventions. Our comments to the Department of Commerce conclude by emphasizing how vital it is for surveys to be accessible to people with disabilities to ensure data collection is inclusive of these populations.