Roughly 14 million to 24 million American citizens still lack access to broadband and prospects for deploying high-speed Internet quickly are bleak, according to a July 20 report from the Federal Communications Commission.
The broadband dearth is particularly dire in poor or rural areas, impeding the creation of new jobs and stimulation of economic growth, the FCC said.
The conclusion, coming days after the FCC called to put $400 million aside for rural health care broadband, was a response to Congress' inquiry about whether broadband deployment in the United States is adequate.
Americans will remain bereft of broadband without reform of the universal service program and changes to U.S. broadband policy that lower the cost of broadband deployment. This will prompt more broadband providers to set up shop in rural, poor and other underserved areas.
These recommendations are outlined in the FCC's National Broadband Plan, which is designed to get broadband pipes laid down and pumping high-speed Internet data to houses and businesses in rural areas.
Specifically, the report proposes to address such recommendations from the National Broadband Plan as:
- Reforming the FCC's universal service programs to support broadband through public and private partnerships.
- Introducing spectrum for mobile broadband.
- Reducing barriers to infrastructure investment, including delays in access to poles and rights-of-way.
- Collecting better broadband data to assist policymakers and consumers.
"As numerous studies show, America is behind where it needs to be on broadband to maintain its global competitiveness and drive economic growth," said FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski in a statement.
"Today's report is a reminder that we must move swiftly to implement the recommendations of the National Broadband Plan."
The report also updates the speed standard used to determine whether households are served by broadband from 200 kilobits-per-second downstream to 4 megabits per second downstream and 1 Mbps upstream.
This change is a reflection in the evolution of Web content from being largely text-based a decade ago to today's Web applications, which are fat in rich media content, including audio, video and graphics.
The FCC National Broadband Plan has the backing of most Internet companies that seek to deliver Web services and content to consumers as quickly as possible.
Today's users are also conducting several Google searches per day and connecting with friends on the Facebook social network, activities that both require sufficient broadband speeds to be enjoyed.
The idea is that the more content these Websites can shuttle to users, the more advertisements the users will see, and thus the more money Google, Facebook, Yahoo and Microsoft may make.
The FCC said four out of five people in the U.S. don't know how fast their home Internet access is.