3-6 million unserved by broadband


by Ann Treacy | September 30, 2009 • Thanks to Ann Higgins for sending me a recent article from Broadcast & Cable that says that – according to the FCC – three to six million people in the US are unserved by broadband. That’s not the bad news – the bad news is that we don’t have enough money to change that; he current Universal Service and stimulus grants and simply not enough.

The other bad news is that the FCC has used the FCC definition of broadband to reach that conclusion so broadband is defined by 768 kbps (download speeds).

Blandin on Broadband offers information on broadband use, access, and trends especially in rural Minnesota. Sponsored by the Blandin Foundation and their Broadband Initiative.

The FCC also found that even where basic and high speed broadband is available, advertised speeds lag actual speeds by 50% and perhaps more during peak periods. They are funding that the 80/20 rule applies to congestion; 80 percent of the traffic is coming from 20 percent of the users. In fact it seems that one percent of the users are responsible for 20 percent of the traffic. Those are the folks fondly known as broadband hogs. The providers want to find a way to manage or charge those folks differently.

This is an interesting time for that report to come out when Net Neutrality has been building steam in the last few weeks. The providers maintain that Net Neutrality may infringe on their right to network management. The FCC seems super pro Net Neutrality so as I said, very interesting.

The article and report go on to say that one third of the folks who have access to broadband do not subscribe. A less controversial stand is to say that we need to work on getting these folks on board with broadband. The FCC has commissioned a survey to determine the barriers. (Is it cost of access, training, cost of a computer, disinterest?)

Converting the unconnected third would be a great boon to the business plans of providers and would therefore help to offset the cost of upgrading broadband connectivity. But more importantly, it would help bridge the digital divide – as more government and commercial service move to an online-only model it becomes more and more important to get people using technology or I’m afraid they will become the unserved in many facets of their life.