By Mari Silbey
Posting in Technology
The FCC reports that 19 million Americans lack access to broadband. But even with that data, there's still a lot we don't know.
The Federal Communications Commission issued a new report yesterday detailing broadband availability in the United States. According to the FCC's data, 19 million Americans still don't have access to terrestrial-fixed broadband. That number is significantly lower than the 26 million cited as not having access a year ago, but it still means that six percent of the U.S. population can't get Internet speeds at a minimum rate of four megabits per second downstream, and one megabit per second upstream.
While the FCC provides a substantial amount of data in the latest Broadband Progress Report, it also acknowledges what it doesn't know. Even as the Commission works to accelerate U.S. broadband deployment through a number of new initiatives, here is some of the information we still don't have.
Comprehensive data on broadband access in elementary and secondary schools
The FCC notes that "as many as 80 percent of the E-rate funded schools and libraries say their broadband connections do not fully meet their needs." These are the institutions that should be guaranteeing Americans access even when there is no broadband at home, but to date we don't have reliable or detailed information on whether they are able to. [Note: The E-rate program provides Internet access discounts to a number of U.S. schools and libraries, but not all.]
Well-documented information on mobile broadband access
The Commission wants to ensure access to both fixed and mobile broadband to all Americans, but it also says it has specifically identified "hundreds of thousands of unserved road miles in census blocks lacking 3G or better wireless services." While the FCC would like to offer a more detailed accounting, it does not believe it has the right data sources today to be able to analyze fully what mobile access looks like across the country. Right now, the FCC believes available data would likely overstate mobile broadband availability.
A complete understanding of how broadband requirements will change
In 2010 the FCC upgraded its definition of broadband to 4 Mbps/1 Mbps. The Commission plans to "review and reset" this threshold every four years, but from the vantage point of 2012, it's hard to tell how quickly or significantly those performance requirements should change. It may be that the current broadband definition will remain appropriate through 2014. However, it's also possible that we'll see major application breakthroughs in the near future thanks to new high-speed networks that push the needle forward faster than we expect. If that happens, it will require a shift in analysis that we simply can't predict today.
Related on SmartPlanet:
- In West Virginia, 416,359 without wired broadband access
- What the FCC's new metrics tell us about U.S. broadband
Image credit: Federal Communications Commission
Aug 21, 2012
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Rural areas lack newspapers, too. Yet the Constitution provided for a mail service to deliver them to the citizenry, information about the nation being key to keeping the Republic from degenerating into another ignorant backwater. Broadband should be in the same category. Comparing broadband access to Thai food is itself a symptom of a deep ignorance of what sustains this nation. Perhaps you're tired of democracy and would prefer something else. A Dominionist theocracy, say, where your village elders tell you what's what and can have you stoned to death for being drunk in public. Maybe you'd like that better.
I have great broadband service competition here in town, including 3/4G. Four miles away there is a stretch of road with a100+ families with no celular service (a terrain shadow area), no cable service, no fixed wireless Internet, and the landline phone is via an older repeater system that supports UP TO 28K max dial-up. No other Internet over copper is possible. AT&T has said for years it would upgrade the phone lines there, but near as anyone can tell, they are waiting for a bigger government hand-out.
Rural areas lack access to good Thai food. Maybe the government should do something about that as well.
The big company's were offered free money to close that digital divide and turned it down. real numbers of course not the F.C.C relies to much on thies company's for the information they should be out gathering this information them selves. It is time for the government to step up and finally get the nation wide wifi system in place. that was promised when they sold off in the first round white spectrum of frequency's and that are still holding on to saying they donât have the tech to put it in place. The Australians donât seam to have a problem.
Thank you! I'm growing short of patience with those whose only outlook on every issue is, "I got mine, to hell with you," except when the tables are turned and they perceive that others are getting theirs.
The government is poor at solving problems for a reasonable cost. There already is satellite broadband available. I found it with a quick Google search. I also believe that there are tradeoffs in life. If your goal is fast Internet, move to the city. If you like the advantages of country living, then live there. I prefer to treat adults like adults and not children of some all-knowing all-seeing government.