A new Federal Communications Commission report states that around 10 percent of Americans have no access to broadband, translating to around 34 million people without the ability to use high-speed Internet. The FCC defines “broadband” as Internet service that facilitates download speeds of 25 Mbps and upload speeds of 3 Mbps.

This year’s definition is controversial because of its new, higher standards. Last year the FCC classified broadband as Internet that enabled 10 Mbps for downloads and 1 Mbps for uploads. Critics argue that the FCC will create stricter requirements for Internet providers, who have already released statements saying that the new report on American access to high-speed Internet “lacks credibility.”

The United States Telecom Association, a trade group that represents telecommunications-based organizations in the U.S., states that the FCC is using the report as an excuse to extend its influence on Internet providers. “This annual process has become a cynical exercise, one that… is patently intended to reach a predetermined conclusion that will justify a continuing expansion of the agency’s own regulatory reach,” said US Telecom on Friday.

However, the FCC’s role is not limited to the chastisement of big-business Internet providers. The government will be taking several actions to increase access to high-speed Internet throughout the country, including the reformation of a low-income telephone subsidy program and the allocation of millions of federal dollars to Internet providers’ construction projects.

“Advanced telecommunications capability is not being deployed in a reasonable and timely fashion to all Americans,” stated an FCC factsheet.

Article via The Washington Post, 8 January 2016

Photo via country road by Remko Tanis

As Internet and smartphone usage continues to expand, a population of Americans still refuses new technologies. The Internet is a vital educational and career tool, and thus the technological gap prevents Internet non-users from succeeding in multiple spheres of society.

Up to 10 million U.S. households without Internet say that they would seek Internet if offered a government subsidy, as indicated by Federal Communications Commission estimates. This population overlaps with the 19% of Internet non-users that cite high prices as the greatest barrier to Internet usage, according to Pew Research Center.

However, 34% of the 51 million people lacking Internet say that the Internet isn’t relevant to their lives, and the 32% that believe the Internet is too difficult to use. Roughly two-thirds of households, therefore, won’t be convinced to get broadband at any price.

Administrators are trying to close the technology gap through a series of initiatives. The FCC stated in August that it would give $9 billion to Internet providers like AT&T, Frontier and Windstream in the next six years to establish broadband infrastructure in rural regions. Another FCC program, named Lifeline, intends to subsidize high-speed Internet for low-income Americans in the coming years, and the White House has established a $1 billion annual budget devoted to connecting schools and libraries to the Web.

However, initiatives can only help those who are willing to use the Internet if given more resources. It’s a much more difficult and intangible task to convince low-income Americans that they should seek out community centers and libraries to research things or apply for federal benefits online. It requires a niche initiative to encourage seniors to use the Internet to keep in touch with family members and friends.

As technology progresses, technology gaps will widen, and inequalities in other sectors will follow. It will take a targeted approach by Washington, state governments, and communities to prevent greater damage in the future.

Article via The Washington Post, 22 October 2015

Photo: Old Barn in Vermont via Geoffrey Coelho [Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs]