High-speed Internet access is spreading rapidly from sea to shining sea, but the government must tackle the technological obstacles affecting an estimated 19 million Americans, mostly in rural areas.
That's the conclusion of the Federal Communication Commission's eighth annual Broadband Progress report, adopted on Aug. 14 and released Tuesday. The report is mandated by the Telecommunications Act of 1996.
'Unleash the Power'
"The...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," said FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski in a statement accompanying the report.
"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."
The 181-page report details progress that has been made but concludes that more must be done.
"The commission adopted transformative changes to the high-cost universal service program to propel deployment of broadband networks, and initiated a Lifeline pilot to promote broadband adoption by low income Americans," the introduction says. "Implementation of these changes is under way. But as of now, our analysis of the best data available -- the data collected by the National Telecommunications and Information administration (NTIA) for the National Broadband Map -- shows that approximately 19 million Americans live in areas still unserved by terrestrial fixed broadband."
Not surprisingly, the vast majority of those Americans, 14.5 million, live in rural areas.
The FCC defines high-speed broadband by a benchmark set in 2010 as ability to offer actual download to the customer of at least 4 megabits per second and actual upload from the customer of at least 1 Mbps. Previously, the benchmark was 200 kilobits per second in both directions.
On the bright side, the report said, the share of those lacking broadband access fell from 26 million last year.
"A significant number of Americans still lack access to what has become an essential information technology," said Charles King, principal analyst at Pund-IT. "That's a particularly critical issue considering the decline in the number of traditional information channels, including local daily and weekly newspapers."
King noted that the report cites disproportionate impact on Native Americans living in Tribal Areas and people living in protectorates such as Puerto Rico and Guam, where in some cases nearly 50 percent of the population lacks broadband Internet.
"Interestingly enough, broadband access is an issue that resonates with the current election cycle," King told us. "Frankly, telecoms and other infrastructure-dependent service providers tend to avoid building in rural areas because lower population density means fewer revenues.
"That's a scenario that has played out time and again in U.S. history with a similar resolution -- the federal government stepping in with grants or other subsidies to make certain that rural Americans have access to critical services."
Posted: 2012-08-21 @ 4:57pm PT
Americans are not interested in poor people getting another service they can not pay for--it worries the poor too, who need a hand up not another bill they cannot afford.