The Federal Communications Commission released its 2012 Eighth Broadband Report, and once again the U.S. lags in its goal to provide universal access to broadband. And it's the "first Broadband Progress Report ever to include extensive data on mobile broadband and the availability of next-generation, high-speed services."
According to the report, the U.S. has expanded high-speed Internet, but the nation needs to continue with major reforms "required before broadband will be available to the approximately 19 million Americans who still lack access."
The report provides maps showing "exactly where broadband is and isn't available, and deployment statistics--by technology type--for every county in the nation." In particular, there's a map showing fixed broadband availability.
In its news release, the FCC sums up the nation's Internet shortcomings which, as has been reported here and elsewhere, fall heavily on low-income people and racial minorities. The report notes:
"In rural areas, nearly one-fourth of the population --14.5 million people--lack access to this service. In tribal areas, nearly one-third of the population lacks access. Even in areas where broadband is available, approximately 100 million Americans still do not subscribe. The report concludes that until the Commission's Connect America reforms are fully implemented, these gaps are unlikely to close."
This deficit is not merely regrettable, it's also potentially actionable. Section 706 of the Telecom Act requires FCC to determine whether broadband is being deployed to all Americans in a "reasonable and timely fashion." If not, then FCC can claim authority to take actions in order to meet the Section 706 obligations.
In a separate statement, FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski lamented the country's shortfall, and pointed out that although many Americans do have access to high-speed Internet, "... our data show that just 27% of Americans are being offered broadband services at those speeds today [100 Mbps], and U.S. prices for these higher speed services exceed many other countries.
But even where government subsidies and assistance are available, the result may not be sufficient to close the gap. Many schools and libraries receive FCC-mandated E-Rate discounted telecommunications services. However, this report notes that 80% of E-rate recipients say that the broadband they access does not have enough capacity to meet their needs.
The answer, says the report, is to double down and proceed with the reforms designed to bring Internet to those still excluded.
FCC Broadband Report finds significant progress in broadband deployment, but important gaps remain (FCC news release, Aug. 21, 2012)
Eighth Broadband Progress Report (FCC Report, Aug. 21, 2012)
FCC Fixed Broadband Deployment Map (FCC Report, 2012)
Statement Of Chairman Julius Genachowski (FCC, Aug. 21, 2012)