The Broadband Adoption Rate

By Susan Crawford
Susan Crawford

Yesterday's FCC report [PDF] estimates that at least 80 million Americans don't have high-speed Internet access — defined as download speeds of at least 4 Mbps and upload 1 Mbps — at home. (Soon the Commission will release another report comparing these results to those in other countries.)

This service is completely unavailable to at least 14 million Americans — the FCC estimates that "1,024 out of 3,230 counties in the United States and its territories are unserved by broadband[, and t]hese unserved areas are home to 24 million Americans living in 8.9 million households." Particularly for Americans in poorer areas, more rural counties, and tribal lands, adequate connectivity isn't even a possibility currently. The Commission has now said that those Americans will not gain such access in the near future absent changes in policy.

While not downplaying what the carriers in America have already done, the FCC is making clear that much more needs to happen. In a heavily footnoted report, the Commission is saying what most Americans already know: "Given the ever-growing importance of broadband to our society, we are unable to conclude that broadband is being reasonably and timely deployed to all Americans in this situation."

By Susan Crawford, Professor, Cardozo Law School in New York City. Visit the blog maintained by Susan Crawford here.

Related topics: Access Providers, Broadband, Policy & Regulation, Telecom

Comments

Sidelining Joly MacFie  –  Jul 21, 2010 2:18 PM PDT

Implicit in the figures above is that there are 56 million Americans to whom service is available but who, for one reason or another, choose not to subscribe.

Indeed Bloomberg quotes Commissioner McDowell as saying “The majority is sidelining the deployment figure of 95 percent in favor of a seemingly smaller subscribership number”.

This itself sidelines the truth, as this report to the FCC found, that both high prices and poor service are major impediments to adoption in low-income areas.

Adoption vs. Deployment Richard Bennett  –  Jul 22, 2010 1:32 PM PDT

The FCC report obscures the important distinction between broadband availability and use. As Commissioner McDowell said, it's *available* to 95% of Americans even if you don't count satellite and 3G as broadband options; the FCC report doesn't count them. The problem we have with broadband in America is that 25% of the people who could use it choose not to, for one reason or another. Price is not the issue, as the US has some of the lowest prices in the world for basic broadband service of the 1.5 Mbps variety (which the FCC no longer considers "real broadband."

The problem is that most of the people who don't subscribe don't own a computer or see any reason to get one. See the ITIF comments on the FCC report for a better picture.