Five to Ten Percent of Americans Lack Access to Basic Broadband Speeds; Despite Broadband Adoption Increase to 68 Percent, America’s Digital Divide Persists
The Department of Commerce's National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) today unveiled the National Broadband Map -- the first public, searchable nationwide map of broadband Internet availability -- and the results of a new nationwide survey on broadband adoption. The data will support efforts to expand broadband access and adoption in communities at risk of being left behind in the 21st century economy and help businesses and consumers seeking information on their high-speed Internet options. NTIA met the deadline Congress gave the agency to create and launch the National Broadband Map by February 17, 2011.
“A state-of-the-art communications infrastructure is essential to America’s competitiveness in the global digital economy,” said Acting Commerce Deputy Secretary Rebecca Blank. “But as Congress recognized, we need better data on America’s broadband Internet capabilities in order to improve them. The National Broadband Map, along with today’s broadband Internet usage study, will inform efforts to enhance broadband Internet access and adoption -- spurring greater innovation, economic opportunities, and advancements in health care, education, and public safety.”
“The National Broadband Map shows there are still too many people and community institutions lacking the level of broadband service needed to fully participate in the Internet economy. We are pleased to see the increase in broadband adoption last year, particularly in light of the difficult economic environment, but a digital divide remains,” said Assistant Secretary for Communications and Information and NTIA Administrator Lawrence E. Strickling. “Through NTIA’s Broadband Technology Opportunities Program, digital literacy activities, and other initiatives, including the tools we are releasing today, the Obama Administration is working to address these challenges.”
National Broadband Map
The National Broadband Map, available at www.broadbandmap.gov, is an unprecedented searchable database of information on high-speed Internet access. NTIA created the National Broadband Map in collaboration with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), using data that each state, territory and the District of Columbia (or their designees) collected from broadband providers or other data sources.
The website resulting from this Federal-state partnership includes more than 25 million searchable records showing where broadband Internet service is available, the technology used to provide the service, the maximum advertised speeds of the service, and the names of the service providers. Users can search by address to find the broadband providers and services available in the corresponding census block or road segment, view the data on a map, or use other interactive tools to compare broadband across various geographies, such as states, counties or congressional districts.
FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski said, “The release of the National Broadband Map, the first of its kind in the nation, is a significant milestone. This cutting-edge tool will continue to evolve with the help of new data and user feedback. It will provide consumers, companies and policymakers with a wealth of information about broadband availability, speeds, competition and technology, and help Americans make better informed choices about their broadband services.”
The map shows that between 5 - 10 percent of Americans lack access to broadband at speeds that support a basic set of applications, including downloading Web pages, photos and video, and using simple video conferencing. The FCC last July set a benchmark of 4 Mbps actual speed downstream and 1 Mbps upstream to support these applications. NTIA collected data in ranges between 3 – 6 Mbps and 6 – 10 Mbps maximum advertised download speeds, which are the closest measurements to the speed benchmark for broadband that the FCC set
Other key findings based on the data include:
Speeds for community anchor institutions:The data show that community anchor institutions are largely underserved. For example, based on studies by state education technology directors, most schools need a connection of 50 to 100 Mbps per 1,000 students. The data show that two-thirds of surveyed schools subscribe to speeds lower than 25 Mbps, however. In addition, only four percent of libraries reported subscribing to speeds greater than 25 Mbps.
Wireless speeds: Approximately 36 percent of Americans have access to wireless (fixed, mobile, licensed, and unlicensed) Internet service at maximum advertised download speeds of 6 Mbps or greater, which some consider the minimum speed associated with “4G” wireless broadband service. Ninety-five percent of Americans have access to wireless Internet service speeds of at least 768 kbps, which corresponds roughly to “3G” wireless service.
The map will serve a variety of uses. For example, Federal, state, and local policymakers can compare broadband availability among geographic areas and across demographic groups, which can inform policies to support private sector investments in deploying broadband. The data can assist broadband providers in assessing new business opportunities and economic developers as they work to attract businesses to, or address barriers to investment in, their communities. The map will also help consumers and small businesses learn about the broadband service options in their neighborhood or where they may relocate.
The State Broadband Data and Development Grant Program
NTIA created the map through the State Broadband Data and Development Grant Program, a matching grant program that implements the joint purposes of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and the Broadband Data Improvement Act (BDIA). NTIA awarded grants to assist states or their designees in gathering and verifying state-specific data on broadband services. In less than one year, grantees performed two rounds of data collection from 3,400 broadband providers operating in their states, representing more than 1,650 unique broadband companies on the national level. Before sending data to NTIA, grantees used a range of analysis and verification methods, from drive-testing wireless broadband service across their highways to meeting with community leaders for input. Many grantees met with broadband providers, large and small, to confirm data or suggest more accurate depictions of their service areas. Some grantees, unsure of service, performed field investigations. Information on their specific processes may be found on the national broadband map website.
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