Monday, July 18, 2016

39% of rural areas lack access to broadband, which has been redefined to be faster than before

Installing fiber-optic cable for broadband
(Photo from Brookings Institution)
The recent court decision upholding the Federal Communications Commission's classification of the internet as a public utility, and the validation of the FCC's "net neutrality" stance, "fail to rectify existing inequalities between urban and rural communities" when it comes to broadband, writes Jack Karsten of the Center for Technology Innovation at the Brookings Institution, a longtime liberal think tank.

That's because the evolution of the internet has made true broadband a lot faster than it was just a few years ago. In 2015 the FCC "redefined broadband as connections with 25 megabits per second (Mbps) download speeds and 4 Mbps upload speeds," Karsten notes on the center's TechTank blog. "This is more than six times the previous standard of 4 Mbps download, allowing for multiple simultaneous video streams."

The FCC's 2016 Broadband Progress Report says 39 percent of rural areas lack access to the newly defined broadband, while only 4 percent of urban areas lack it, Karsten notes, saying "This rural/urban 'digital divide' in access severely limits rural populations from taking advantage of a critical component of modern life. . . . Rural schools lack access to high-speed fiber and pay more than twice as much for bandwidth. In a growing world of personalized online curricula, internet-based research, and online testing, this severely restricts rural students from educational opportunities their urban counterparts may enjoy."

Karsten says the FCC "must do more as a regulatory body to ensure equal access to this public utility," expanding broadband access "alongside advances in technology rather than after the fact, satisfying increased demands for faster internet with infrastructure growth. Otherwise, rural communities will continue to play catch up with their urban counterparts and the U.S. will remain digitally divided." (Read more)

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