Broadband Access: Not in Everyone's Back Yard
"The FCC--and the nation--must continue to address obstacles impeding universal broadband deployment and availability."
Broadband coverage still has a lot of blank spaces on the U.S. map. The FCC has published reports which help to quantify the extent of broadband access in the U.S.:
The FCC Reports on Broadband Access
The FCC surveys broadband access technologies and their geographic coverage. A great deal of information is provided in the FCC's "Eighth Broadband Progress Report". The FCC report states that, "The nation has made significant progress expanding high-speed Internet access in recent years, but further implementation of major reforms newly adopted by the Federal Communications Commission is required before broadband will be available to the approximately 19 million Americans who still lack access."
In an era when broadband is essential to innovation, jobs, and global competitiveness, the Report concludes that "The FCC--and the nation--must continue to address obstacles impeding universal broadband deployment and availability."
Fixed Broadband Access
There is an interactive map in the report of fixed broadband deployment for the U.S. which demonstrates how much territory of the U.S. is not covered. This map illustrates the FCC's broadband deployment results, using data underlying the National Broadband Map, as of June 30, 2011. It shows census block areas of the U.S. with and without access to fixed broadband of at least 3 Mbps download and 768 kbps upload. You can view additional demographic data and broadband deployment by technology by zooming in over the selected county.
Mobile Broadband Access
There is also an interactive mobile deployment map in the same FCC report. The map was created to illustrate the FCC's mobile deployment results using data underlying the National Broadband Map, as of June 30, 2011. It displays the census block areas of the U.S. with access to mobile services of at least 3 Mbps download and 768 kbps upload. The map also shows those areas with and without services of at least 768 kbps download and 200 kbps upload.
Again here, you can view additional demographic data and broadband deployment by technology by zooming in over the selected county. There are huge areas of the U.S. that do not have wireless, or have low-speed wireless broadband access.
Seven States with Poor 3G Coverage
(Data from the FCC Report)
Lack of Access Hurts the Local Economy
You may think that this broadband penetration information would primarily be of interest to the state and local governments and service providers. This is certainly true, but the growth of businesses and employment are directly affected by the poor or non-existent broadband coverage.
Consider the organization planning on constructing a facility or moving to a location that has poor broadband access. While the organization is scouting out the locale, they experience how the lack of broadband access retards their communications, and this discourages them from opening facilities in the underserved areas. The planners may look at the maps in this FCC report and decide to not even consider locating in the underserved area--a real loss to the community.
Is One Provider Enough?
There is a significant investment, about $200,000 per cell tower, to expand wireless coverage into a previously-unserved area. There may be just enough revenue from the addressable market in the area to cover this initial investment expense. The prospect of a second provider entering the same market--cutting into the profitability of the first provider--could discourage that first provider from making the new investment in the first place.
If we had system that relied on a Carrier-of-Last-Resort (where a single provider offers the service to an entire territory) like we have for wired telephone service, then the providers could be subsidized by the Universal Service Fund (USF) and we would eventually have no blank coverage spots on our map. In some European countries, the provider must implement wireless services in their entire territory-- not just the high profit geographic areas--if they want to be awarded the territory for wireless coverage.