Broadband Internet connection is essential for nearly everyone working today. However, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has not lived up to their own reports in improving access to underserved and rural communities. Microsoft’s own analysis indicates that 162.8 million Americans don’t use broadband speeds while the FCC reported the number as 24.7 million in 2018.
Why does this matter?
First of all, broadband connection is classified as 25Mbps download speeds and 3Mbps for uploading. For students, business owners, freelancers, and average Americans going about their day, having a fast, efficient Internet connection is a necessity.
It creates more opportunities for community growth, jobs, and education.
The overall impact on economic well-being can’t be overstated. Yet, according to Microsoft, a third of the population either doesn’t use broadband or does not have access.
Additionally, their analysis concludes that the counties with the highest unemployment also have the lowest broadband access and usage.
Within the last five years, the FCC has received $22 billion in grants and subsidies with broadband adoption hardly considered. Clearly, if the numbers are this far off, then this massive budget is used beyond inefficiently.
Microsoft’s study traced the data discrepancy back to the FCC’s Form 477, a required filing for service providers. The questions lack specificity where a single “yes” can imply that a whole area has access to broadband when this isn’t true.
Also, because the FCC’s data is based on census blocks, these units are misleading for rural areas; if one person in the block reports broadband service, the entire block is reported as covered.
Internet connection aside, the broader implications are how these numbers affect public fund allocations at the local, state, and federal levels. If these underserved communities are misreported, they will continue to go without the support they need.