FCC Reports That 19 Million Americans Still Lack Broadband Access
redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports – Your Universe Online
A growing number of Americans now have high-speed Internet access, but 19 million still remain without, according to an annual broadband progress report released Tuesday by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).
“The nation has made significant progress expanding high-speed Internet access in recent years, but further implementation of major reforms newly adopted by the Federal Communications Commission is required before broadband will be available to the approximately 19 million Americans who still lack access,” the FCC said.
“The FCC – and the nation – must continue to address obstacles impeding universal broadband deployment and availability.”
The agency said its current report (PDF) is based on data it had as of June 2011. It classifies an Internet service as “broadband” if it provides actual download speeds of at least 4 Megabits per second (Mbps) and actual upload speeds of at least 1 Mbps.
Last year, the agency estimated that 26 million Americans lacked broadband Internet access. However, the FCC attributed this year’s dramatic decline, in part, to the fact that the current report relies upon more accurate and detailed data provided by the states.
The drop also reflects Internet service providers’ expansion beyond the suburbs, the FCC said.
The annual report is generated as a result of Section 706 of the Telecommunications Act of 1996, which requires the FCC to report annually on whether broadband “is being deployed to all Americans in a reasonable and timely fashion.”
This year’s report acknowledges the major steps taken by Internet service providers and policymakers to accelerate broadband deployment, such as the billions invested in broadband deployment, including next-generation wired and wireless services.
But despite the progress, the lack of broadband Internet access continues to affect rural Americans the most. Some 14.5 million rural Americans, or roughly 24% of those living in rural areas, are still without Internet services to their homes, according to the report. By comparison, just 1.8% of Americans living in non-rural areas, or 4.5 million people, lack high-speed Internet access.
The report’s ranking of states highlights the correlation between broadband access and economic productivity, with economically stressed states faring worse than areas of the country where the economy is performing better. For instance, West Virginia had the least amount of broadband Internet access, with 45.9% of the state lacking access to high-speed Internet. This was followed by Montana (26.7%), South Dakota (21.1%) and Alaska (19.6%).
Even in California, more than 35.2% of the state’s rural residents had no option to purchase broadband Internet services.
Nationwide, 6.2% of the population is now without any access to high-speed Internet, according to the report.
In July, the FCC announced that it would invest $115 million to subsidize broadband Internet providers’ expansion of service to rural areas. Any company that accepts the subsidies from the first phase of the Connect America Fund — $775 per household connected — must deploy the new network infrastructure within three years.
Roughly 400,000 residents in 37 states will gain access upon completion of the work, according to FCC estimates.
The agency launched the Connect America Fund last year, when it updated the Universal Service Fund that was established to deliver phone service to rural areas.
FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski said the agency’s goal is to make broadband Internet service available to the 19 million Americans who lack access by 2020.
“Your chance of getting a job is lower if you don’t have broadband. Job postings have moved online,” he said.
“The Report’s conclusions only reaffirm what I hear all too often from small business owners, parents, educators and others across the country—we can’t let up on our efforts to unleash the benefits of broadband for every American. Increasing broadband deployment, increasing adoption, increasing speeds and capacity are vital throughout our country; they’re essential to growing our innovation economy and driving our global competitiveness.”