America’s Broadband Divide: Where We Stand
Since the early days of the internet, policymakers and advocates have been concerned about Americans’ ability to access quality broadband.
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In a few years, this concern has only grown as we’ve come to rely on the internet for everything from work to entertainment to communication. And yet, despite some progress, there is still a significant divide in broadband access and adoption in the United States.
What’s the Current Situation?
Microsoft published a study showing how many Americans are still without broadband internet; the results were shocking. So many people that the FCC (Federal Communications Commission) estimated aren’t using broadband speeds, as the tech giant found that 162.8 million Americans have no access to the internet.
The digital divide in America has become a much greater problem since a rapid, systemic chain of events began following the COVID-19 outbreak. It didn’t take long for nearly all businesses, schools, and government agencies to switch to partial or complete telecommuting.
Then what happens to the millions of people without access to the internet?
Future of Broadband
Microsoft’s chief data analytics officer wrote this in a foreshadowing statement; there are real economic problems associated with the lack of connectivity.
At least six independent studies show that broadband directly impacts jobs and GDP. An analysis shows that the most unemployable counties also have the lowest broadband usage (and the lowest broadband access).
Look at the vast difference between the FCC and Microsoft data for broadband availability. According to the Federal Communications Commission, as many as 138.1 million people are without broadband access.
There are far greater repercussions for the FCC than just unreliable data. It is a determining factor for which areas get broadband funding and which don’t. Unfortunately, the FCC has regularly been called out for its errors.
When the FCC map shows that you have internet access in your area, the county or city will find it more challenging to get funding for broadband expansion.
We need accurate broadband reports that show where broadband is available and where it isn’t at certain speeds so the digital divide can be closed. A map of the U.S. is essential, as it informs federal agencies where to direct broadband funding.
The failure to create accurate and precise maps ultimately wastes resources and inhibits economic development in rural and underserved communities.
FCC Wrong Information
Several factors contribute to the misleading nature of the FCC data. These factors include the following:
- FCC data is gathered from census blocks in large geographical areas.
- If one customer has broadband access within a census block, the entire block is considered to have service.
- There is a need to collect more detailed information on broadband coverage.
- Service providers do not verify whether their services are delivered at advertised speeds.
Accelerate Broadband Access
As part of the new strategy to update broadband maps, the commission launched the Broadband Data Collection program. Consumers can access a webpage describing the FCC’s program and explore available resources, such as the option to share their broadband experiences.
In addition to providing updates for consumers, state, local, and tribal government entities, and other stakeholders, the page highlights milestones.
Many American citizens are left behind when accessing jobs, education, and healthcare if they don’t have broadband. The FCC will map where broadband service is needed by collecting data from consumers directly affected by the lack of broadband access.
Lack of Internet Access
Each state is mostly lacking ample broadband access in rural areas, but some urban areas are also impacted. For exa
mple, FCC data indicates that Ferry County residents in Microsoft’s home state of Washington have access to broadband at 100%.
However, it should be noted that similar overreporting of broadband availability occurs in more urban areas, making this a problem that doesn’t just affect rural areas.
The broadband divide is a real and pressing issue in the United States. There are, however, several things we can do to help close it. First, we need to continue working together to increase access to affordable, high-quality broadband for all Americans.For more information regarding a reliable internet service provider in you area, check out the list of providers on BuyTVInternetPhone.