Data & Mapping
For all that has changed since the Benton Institute released Broadband for America’s Future: A Vision for the 2020s, this goal remains paramount. In October 2019, we said that connecting our entire nation through High-Performance Broadband would bring remarkable economic, social, cultural, and personal benefits. We said that open, affordable, robust broadband is the key to all of us reaching for—and achieving—the American Dream.
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).
The Federal Communications Commission released data showing that the digital divide is closing. At the end of 2019, the number of Americans living in areas without access to terrestrial fixed broadband with speeds of at least 25/3 Mbps—the Commission’s benchmark for high-speed broadband—fell to 14.5 million, a 46% decrease from the end of 2016. Services at higher speeds saw even more significant deployment, with the number of Americans living in areas without broadband speeds of at least 250/25 Mbps falling by 77% since the end of 2016.
A rapid rise in the number of “power users” consuming 1 TB or more of data per month and continued migration to faster speed tiers are creating new revenue opportunities for broadband service providers, according to the Q3 2020 OpenVault Broadband Insights report. The report also provides a more detailed breakdown of the outsized impact of power users and gigabit speeds on network capacity, particularly in the upstream. Key findings in the OVBI Q32020 report include:
The next administration should launch a concerted broadband data-collection and analysis effort to support smart, timely, and informed decision-making by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and other agencies that work on broadband, such as the Rural Utilities Service. Specifically, the FCC should collect (or work with others to collect) comprehensive data on the following eight indicators:
The next administration should maximize the use of all available policy tools to close the homework gap and keep it closed. First, the Federal Communications Commission should update the existing E-rate program to allow schools to ensure home access to broadband for every student and teacher (Pre-K to Grade 12). Second, the FCC, in coordination with the Department of Education, should launch a one-to-one device program for students and teachers (Pre-K to Grade 12).
St. Clair County, about 100 miles southeast of Kansas City, has a population of about 9,000 people. Roughly 18% of them live below the poverty line. Theresa Heckenlively is the head of economic development for the county, and says lack of internet access is hurting the county now, and limiting its future. “We don’t have enough service to be reliable for home and definitely not enough for economic growth,” Heckenlively said. “We see that a lot of people are coming from out of state and want to move into our rural communities.
The State of Wisconsin is serious about expanding broadband access, and that starts with accurate data
The State of Wisconsin has centered broadband mapping as a core issue in its efforts to expand access. For now, the onus has shifted to state and local governments to collect information on broadband access and adoption. COVID-19 demands accelerated those efforts, many of which were already underway in Wisconsin.
Colorado Gov Releases Broadband Initiatives Report, Signs Executive Order Establishing Broadband Advisory Board
Gov. Jared Polis (D-CO) released the Broadband Initiatives Report which outlines the state’s vision to create economic opportunity for Coloradans and accomplish the administration’s Bold Four issues through changing how Colorado governs, maps, funds, and deploys broadband.
There are many challenges to broadband connectivity in rural and unserved areas of Texas, and currently Texas is one of six states that does not have a statewide broadband plan. In studying the progress of broadband development in unserved areas, the Council found that over 300,000 locations in Texas are unserved. As of July 2020, an estimated 926,859 Texans do not have access to broadband at home. The Council found that Texas’ rural population represents approximately 90 percent of all Texans without broadband access. The Council also studied barriers to broadband development in Texas.