Data & Mapping
With great drama, the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021 became law on December 27, 2021. The $2.3 trillion COVID relief and government spending bill extended unemployment benefits and ensured the government can keep running. The $900 billion COVID relief provision includes over $7 billion to help improve connectivity in the U.S.
In October 2019, the Benton Institute for Broadband & Society issued Broadband for America’s Future: A Vision for the 2020s. The agenda was comprehensive, constructed upon achievements in communities and insights from experts across the nation. The report outlined the key building blocks of broadband policy—deployment, competition, community anchor institutions, and digital equity (including affordability and adoption).
On May 5, 2021, Federal Communications Commission Acting Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel responded to various Members of Congress regarding the FCC's efforts to make the broadband deployment data it collects more accurate, particularly after the passage of the Broadband DATA Act. She wrote, "I am pleased to report that we have made significant progress in just a few months, including the efforts highlighted below.
BroadbandNow Estimates Availability for all 50 States; Confirms that More than 42 Million Americans Do Not Have Access to Broadband
In 2020, we manually checked availability of more than 11,000 addresses using Federal Communications Commission Form 477 data as the “source of truth.” Based on the results, we estimated that 42 million Americans do not have the ability to purchase broadband internet. In 2021, we expanded our study, manually checking availability of terrestrial broadband internet (wired or fixed wireless) for more than 58,000 addresses. In all, we checked more than 110,000 address-provider combinations using the FCC Form 477 data as the “source of truth”.
As we kick off our Infrastructure Week series, we wanted to show the scope of the problem ourselves. This map shows where the broadband problem is worst — the areas where the difficulty of reliably connecting to the internet has gotten bad enough to become a drag on everyday life. Specifically, the colored-in areas show US counties where less than 15 percent of households are using the internet at broadband speed, defined as 25Mbps download speed.
The House Commerce Committee's Subcommittee on Communications and Technology held a hearing on the disparities that exist in accessing affordable, reliable high-speed internet in the US. The panel heard from the National Urban League's Joi Chaney, Public Knowledge President Chris Lewis, Francella Ochillo of Next Century Cities, and George Ford, the chief economist at the Phoenix Center.
The facts on pricing and profits for the US broadband industry, the varying ways to measure prices, the important differences between these methods, and how certain methods can be used to obfuscate the reality of what is happening in the market and at the kitchen table. Government and industry data note the strength and weaknesses in each form and highlight how the ISP industry and its apologists use this kind of data to mislead. Some of our findings include:
In light of many moving pieces and the potential broadband funding streams, we recommend communities take the following steps to develop a funding strategy and position themselves competitively for federal dollars:
Without a massive investment to build out the country’s open fiber infrastructure and a new set of rules to govern its use, the United States risks being left behind. Recommendations: