Wireless-only biggest in rural areas

The 24 million Americans without access to broadband networks mostly live in rural areas. According to the National Broadband Plan, the "broadband availability gap is greatest in areas with low population density. Because service providers in these areas cannot earn enough revenue to cover the costs of deploying and operating broadband networks..."

At the same time, according to a new paper from the Georgetown University Center for Business and Public Policy, the most rural states are also the places where the greatest percentage of households have cut the cord, and are dependent on wireless only. Arkansas, Mississippi, Texas, North Dakota and Idaho range from approximately 32 to 35 percent mobile-only. In fact, the study said that the "population density of a household's county is inversely related to the demand for wireless telephony."

While the reasons for this phenomenon are unclear, it means that in order for the nation to provide broadband to both sides of the digital divide, we must use wireless as well as landlines. One of the most obvious and available remedies is to speed the merger between AT&T and T-Mobile. With that merger in place, according to AT&T, 97 percent of the U.S. population could access the projected availability of  4G LTE. With 4G LTE in place, those Americans who depend on just wireless could have broadband speeds now only available to those with wireline connections.

According to a recent CWA report, "Blocking The AT&T/T-Mobile Merger will Harm Consumers, Communities and the Economy," the AT&T/T-Mobile merger will enable AT&T to build a more efficient, next-generation high-speed wireless network more quickly in more places and improve service quality more expeditiously than either AT&T or T-Mobile could do separately.

National Broadband Plan, Chapter 8 (2010)

Achieving Rural Universal Service in a Broadband Era (Georgetown Univ. Center for Business & Public Policy, Oct., 2011)

New CWA Report Challenges Critics of AT&T/T-Mobile Merger (Speed Matters, Oct. 11, 2011)