After reading the conclusions drawn by the broadband provider community and the FCC, one would think that the data sources were entirely different. According to broadband providers, there is plenty of broadband access at speeds consumers want. The FCC claims that slow speeds increase the digital divide, large swaths of unserved areas throughout the country deprive many Americans of any access whatsoever, and where there is high-speed access, there is virtually no competition in the market.
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According to FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler,
“Three-quarters of American homes have no competitive choice for the essential infrastructure for 21st century economics and democracy.”
After voting to raise the minimum speed for defining broadband to 25 Mbps down and 3 Mbps up in early 2015, the FCC declared that “U.S. Broadband Deployment Not Keeping Pace.” The FCC move is significant because it is an acknowledgment of the rapidly increasing speeds and capacity required to use popular services and applications such as streaming video, high-quality graphics and business applications which require high speeds. Broadband as an Economic Driver: What Are the Economic Benefits of Broadband?Key findings of the most recent FCC Broadband Report include the following:
17 percent of all Americans (55 million people) lack access to 25 Mbps/3 Mbps service.
53 percent of rural Americans (22 million people) lack access to 25 Mbps/3 Mbps.
By contrast, only 8 percent of urban Americans lack access to 25 Mbps/3 Mbps broadband.
Rural America continues to be underserved at all speeds: 20 percent lack access even to service at 4 Mbps/1 Mbps, down only 1 percent from 2011, and 31 percent lack access to 10 Mbps/1 Mbps, down only 4 percent from 2011.
63 percent of Americans living on Tribal lands (2.5 million people) lack access to 25 Mbps/3 Mbps broadband
85 percent living in rural areas of Tribal lands (1.7 million people) lack access.
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63 percent of Americans living in U.S. territories (2.6 million people) lack access to 25 Mbps/3 Mbps broadband.
79 percent of those living in rural territorial areas (880,000 people) lack access.
Overall, the gap in availability of broadband at 25/3 closed by only 3 percentage points last year, from 20% lacking access in 2012 to 17% in 2013
Overall, the broadband availability gap closed by only 3 percent last year.
Americans living in rural and urban areas adopt broadband at similar rates where 25 Mbps/ 3 Mbps service is available, 28 percent in rural areas and 30 percent in urban areas.
Approximately 35 percent of schools lack access to fiber, and thus likely lack access to broadband at the Commission’s shorter term benchmark (adopted in its July 2014 E-rate Modernization Order) of 100 Mbps per 1,000 users, and even fewer have access at the long term goal of 1 Gbps per 1,000 users.