Data & Mapping
Across the country, the Federal Communications Commission and internet service providers are pretending there’s competition in an unimaginable number of places where it doesn’t actually exist. We consistently pay more than Europe regardless of speed, according to a fascinating, approachable study you should read from the New America think tank.
School districts and cities across the country are racing to bridge a digital divide that has existed for decades. At least 39 states have said they would use funds from the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (Cares) Act to help school districts close the tech gap. The fixes can be fairly simple. School-district and municipal IT departments are using technology that has been around for years, such as solar-powered antennas to transmit Wi-Fi, or wireless broadband, closer to more peoples’ homes.
This year-long research project surveyed rural and urban Pennsylvanians about their willingness to pay for high-speed broadband service. It provides a unique first look into factors that continue to create substantial barriers to closing the digital divide. The researchers surveyed 1,446 Pennsylvania residents in May and June 2020. They used a hybrid telephone/SMS (short message service, or “text messaging”) survey that asked respondents about the type of internet technology available to them, broadband pricing, and willingness to pay for 25 Megabits per second (Mbps) broadband.
Dora the Explorer knew that maps were important to find one’s way. Unfortunately, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is still learning that lesson, particularly when it comes to broadband for the nation’s schools, libraries, healthcare providers, and other community anchor institutions. It’s no secret that the FCC’s current broadband maps are flawed.
To gauge the deployment rates of advanced services by its member companies, for nearly two decades NTCA–The Rural Broadband Association (NTCA) has conducted its Broadband/Internet Availability Survey. This latest broadband survey is a follow-up to similar surveys conducted in recent years by NTCA and seeks to build upon the results of those surveys. This year’s survey asked about technologies used to provide broadband service in ILEC service areas, broadband availability and subscription rates, anchor institutions, fixed wireless broadband services, competitive broadband services, mobile vo
Progress on gigabit deployment in the US has been greatly exaggerated. This is true for the state of the internet in general. However, the gigabit landscape is a subsection worth examining more closely, as it is the connectivity threshold that will be required to solve the speed and functionality divides of the near future. The Federal Communications Commission claims that gigabit availability has ballooned from 4% in 2016 to 84% in 2020. Our own estimates, however, show that gigabit plan access has actually gone from 2.4% in the same year to 56% in 2020.
The Federal Communications Commission does not collect broadband pricing data or analyze the price of broadband access. This is despite numerous studies detailing how cost is one of the biggest barriers to broadband adoption, a stark divide that disproportionately harms Black, Latinx, tribal, and rural communities. The COVID-19 pandemic casts this gap in a grim new light. For the incoming administration, the solution is as close at hand as the nearest jar of pasta sauce or container of ice cream.
In a letter the leadership of the Senate and the Senate Committee on Appropriations, senators urged full funding for the Secure and Trusted Communications Networks Act and the Broadband DATA Act. The Secure and Trusted Communications Networks Act (“rip and replace”) created a program to help small, rural telecommunications operators remove equipment posing a security threat to domestic networks and replace it with equipment from trusted providers. Fully funding the Broadband DATA Act would ensure more accurate broadband maps and better stewardship over the millions of dollars the federal go
Jeff McElfresh, CEO of AT&T Communications, described AT&T's broadband policy goals. He said Congress should act to directly fund the Universal Service Fund, changing the funding mechanism since the contribution factor — the percentage of voice revenues that goes toward USF — is on track to exceed 30% for the first time. Other AT&T broadband policy recommendations outlined:
A Q&A with John Horrigan, senior fellow at the Technology Policy Institute.