FCC: Up to 24m US citizens lack access to broadband

As many as 24 million U.S. citizens have no access to broadband Internet service and are unlikely to get the higher-speed connection any time soon, the U.S. Federal Communications Commission said yesterday.
“The immediate prospects for deployment to them are bleak,” the Washington-based commission said in a statement. Between 14 million and 24 million live without Web service that can transmit at least 4 megabits per second, the agency said.
The FCC recommended several measures to move closer to its goal of universally available broadband: releasing more spectrum for mobile broadband, allowing for more infrastructure to support the service and further data collection to help more U.S. citizens get broadband. The U.S. population is about 310 million, according to the Central Intelligence Agency.
“There’s a large chunk of Americans who can’t compete and can’t conduct commerce as the rest of the country does today,” Art Brodsky, communications director for advocacy group Public Knowledge, said in an interview. “You can’t force industry to expand to rural areas, but can you can through regulation encourage them to do so.”
In March, the FCC released a plan to expand the availability of broadband throughout the U.S. The agency aims to boost the share of those using broadband at home to 90 percent from about 65 percent currently, and having at least 100 million households with connections of 100 megabits per second.
“The rest of the world is not standing still on their broadband infrastructure,” Julius Genachowski, the FCC chairman, told Bloomberg TV at the time. “We are lagging behind globally.”
Broadband Video
In yesterday’s statement, the FCC said it had increased its decade-old measurement of broadband speeds by 20-fold to 4 megabits per second downstream and 1 megabit upstream. That’s a speed required for using video-rich services, while retaining capacity for Web-browsing and e-mail, the agency said.
FCC Commissioner Robert McDowell disagreed with the agency’s conclusion, citing data that showed broadband is more widely available than subscriber rolls suggest.
“The majority is sidelining the deployment figure of 95 percent in favor of a seemingly smaller subscribership number,” McDowell said in a statement.
The commission’s conclusion “makes no sense” given earlier studies about the availability of broadband, Kathleen Grillo, senior vice president for federal regulatory affairs at Verizon Communications Inc., said in a statement.
“We hope that the FCC’s finding is not used as a justification to roll back the bipartisan, pro-investment policies,” she said.
--Editors: Ville Heiskanen, Peter Elstrom
To contact the reporter on this story: Greg Bensinger in New York at [email protected]
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Peter Elstrom at [email protected]

Bloomberg Businessweek