26 million without broadband access; another 100 million choose not to subscribe, says FCC report

Nearly 26 million Americans, mostly in rural communities, have no access to high-speed Internet service, according to the latest Broadband Progress Report from the Federal Communications Commission submitted to Congress.

Another one-third of Americans do not subscribe to broadband, even when it’s available, the report says. This suggests that factors such as cost, low digital literacy, and concerns about privacy remain high and act as barriers to adoption. Schools and libraries, too, have limited broadband capacity.

According to an FCC press statement released May 20 announcing the report, without commission action in partnership with the states and the private sector, prospects for broadband service in many of the areas “will remain unacceptably low.” The report finds the problem especially acute among low-income Americans, African-Americans, Hispanics, seniors, and residents of tribal areas.

Not all of the news related to broadband development is bad, however. The report finds the private sector invests tens of billions of dollars in broadband infrastructure yearly. Last year, it spent $65 billion in capital expenditure on broadband infrastructure.

According to the commission statement announcing the report, broadband can help create hundreds of thousands of new jobs for Americans in coming years, including more than 200,000 jobs through investment in 4G wireless technologies.

The report relies on the nation’s first collection of data about actual broadband deployment, rather than the estimates based on broadband adoption used by previous reports. The new deployment data was collected at the direction of Congress by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration.