Broadband in the U.S. still isn't being deployed in a "reasonable and timely" fashion, the Federal Communications Commission said on Tuesday in an annual report about high-speed Web service. This report marks the third time in a row the FCC has found broadband deployment lacking.
Specifically, the FCC found that 19 million Americans live in areas that lack access to broadband. That figure, while high, is at least lower than last year, when 26 million Americans lacked the ability to surf the Web on home broadband lines -- currently defined as Web connections that allow downloads of at least 4 Mbps. Three-quarters of the group without access to home broadband connections live in rural areas, the FCC says.
Even when people have access to high-speed services, they don't all subscribe to them. The FCC reports that just 40% of Americans have wireline Web connections faster than 3 Mbps downstream, while only 64% have connections faster than 768 Kbps downstream (the FCC's pre-2010 definition of broadband).
Why don't people who have access subscribe? Reasons include "lack of affordability, lack of digital literacy, and a perception that the Internet is not relevant or useful to them," the FCC says.
Advocacy groups say the report shows that more competition is needed. “Yet again, the data clearly shows that millions of people are not getting access in a reasonable and timely fashion, and probably never will unless policymakers take this problem seriously," Free Press research director S. Derek Turner said in a statement.
Public Knowledge adds that the decision to allow Verizon to ally with cable companies -- and sell their cable modem service to wireless users -- won't help matters. "This is the clearest sign yet that broadband competition in the US is far from what it should be," Public Knowledge said in a statement.
Two commissioners -- Robert McDowell and Ajit Paik -- dissented from the conclusion that broadband deployment isn't occurring in a reasonable and timely fashion. McDowell, who voted against net neutrality regulations, says he believes that the negative reports about broadband have been used "to create a pretext to justify more regulation."
Paik adds that he thinks the reason broadband lags is that companies are afraid to invest due to "concerns about whether and how Internet Protocol-based ... networks are going to be regulated in the future."