Thursday, July 22, 2010

Identifying Areas in the U.S. Lacking Any Broadband Options

Despite previous proclamations of near ubiquitous broadband access in the United States, using smaller and more numerous counties instead of zip codes and considering broadband to require far greater than the previous 200 kilo bits per second floor, the FCC now acknowledges that significant numbers of Americans residing in many largely rural areas with low incomes lack any access at all. [1] The Commission now acknowledges “that broadband deployment to all Americans is not reasonable and timely. This conclusion departs from previous broadband deployment reports, which held that even though certain groups of Americans were not receiving timely access to broadband, broadband deployment ‘overall’ was reasonable and timely.” [2]


The Sixth Broadband Deployment Report confirms that a sizeable number of Americans have no broadband access whatsoever, or have access that do not meet the National Broadband Plan goal of affordable service with download speeds of at least 4 megabits per second (“Mbps”) and upload speeds of at least 1 Mbps. [3] The FCC recognized the prior 200 kilobit per second rate, in either direction, “simply is not enough bandwidth to enable a user, using current technology, ‘to originate and receive high-quality voice, data, graphics, and video telecommunications,’ as section 706 [of the Telecommunication Act of 1996] requires of such services.” [4]

Using the higher bit rate threshold the FCC estimates that 1,024 out of 3,230 counties in the United States and its territories are unserved by broadband, [5] and between approximately 14 to 24 million Americans do not have access to broadband today. [6] The Commission makes a number of candid acknowledgements:

The . . . [unserved] group appears to be disproportionately lower-income Americans and Americans who live in rural areas. The goal of the statute, and the standard against which we measure our progress, is universal broadband availability. We have not achieved this goal today, nor does it appear that we will achieve success without changes to present policies. The evidence further indicates that market forces alone are unlikely to ensure that the unserved minority of Americans will be able to obtain the benefits of broadband anytime in the near future. Therefore, if we remain on our current course, a large number of Americans likely will remain excluded from the significant benefits of broadband that most other Americans can access today. Given the ever-growing importance of broadband to our society, we are unable to conclude that broadband is being reasonably and timely deployed to all Americans in this situation. [7]

As evidenced by the ambitious goals in the National Broadband Plan, the Commission aspires to do a better job of promoting affordable and ubiquitous access going forward.

[1] Inquiry Concerning the Deployment of Advanced Telecommunications Capability to All Americans in a Reasonable and Timely Fashion, and Possible Steps to Accelerate Such Deployment Pursuant to Section 706 of the Telecommunications Act of 1996, as Amended by the Broadband Data Improvement Act, GN Docket No. 09-137, Sixth Broadband Deployment Report, (rel. July 20, 2010); available at: http://hraunfoss.fcc.gov/edocs_public/attachmatch/FCC-10-129A1.pdf[hereinafter cited as Sixth Broadband Deployment Report].


[2] Id. at ¶2.

[3] See FCC, OMNIBUS BROADBAND INITIATIVE (OBI), CONNECTING AMERICA: THE NATIONAL BROADBAND PLAN, GN Docket No. 09-51 (2010) (NATIONAL BROADBAND PLAN); Inquiry Concerning the Deployment of Advanced Telecommunications Capability to All Americans in a Reasonable and Timely Fashion, and Possible Steps to Accelerate Such Deployment Pursuant to Section 706 of the Telecommunications Act of 1996, as Amended by the Broadband Data Improvement Act; A National Broadband Plan for Our Future, GN Docket Nos. 09-51, 09-137, 2010 W.L. 972375 (rel. March 16, 2010). See also, National Broadband Plan, World Wide Web Site, http://www.broadband.gov/plan/.

[4] Sixth Broadband Deployment Report at ¶10.

[5] Id. at ¶22.

[6] Id. at ¶28. The Commission previously reported that about 80 million Americans either do not have access, or do not subscriber to an available broadband service.

[7] Id.

1 comment:

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