The digital divide is still significant, but it’s “narrowing,” according to Federal Communications Commission Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel.
The FCC on Friday released its third National Broadband Map, which shows where internet service is available across the U.S., and said just over 7.2 million homes lack access to high-speed internet, down from 8.3 million locations when the second map was released in May.
In addition, the number of broadband serviceable locations has increased by 800,000 since May – bringing the total to 115 million locations.
The numbers show some progress in closing the broadband gap – the term for unequal access to digital technology and internet among different groups of people and locations. The release of the third version of the National Broadband Map is important because the agency and regulators rely on it to determine where problem spots are located and what communities need additional funding.
The FCC has made it a priority to improve the accuracy of the map, which critics say rely on either outdated or inaccurate information supplied by internet service providers.
The map is a key way to settle disagreements between government agencies, broadband providers, and the FCC about standards for network build outs, which have made closing the digital divide a challenge.
The figures reported on the Broadband Map show a step towards the goal of providing reliable, high-speed connectivity for unserved and underserved homes and businesses.
Efforts to increase broadband connectivity can also be seen with the introduction of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. The legislation secured $65 billion to expand internet access in the U.S. and created the Affordable Connectivity Program, which helps qualifying households pay less for internet access. In addition, the law allocated $42.45 billion for the Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment program, or BEAD, which will expand high-speed connectivity in underserved or unserved areas.
An increasingly digital world means reliable, high-speed internet is crucial to households for work, school, and managing finances. And today there are more options than ever with more mobile carriers and internet providers building out their 5G home internet offerings. In addition, SpaceX’s Starlink offers high-speed, low-latency internet service by using low-earth orbit satellites. Amazon is also working on its own version of Starlink in the form of Project Kuiper.
The FCC’s new map also shows that more broadband build outs are in progress due to the Commission’s Rural Digital Opportunity Fund and Connect America Fund along with state and privately funded programs and projects. Deployments funded by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law will further the build outs, according to the FCC.
You can view the National Broadband Map on the FCC’s website. If you enter your address, you can view data about your area’s fixed and mobile broadband including providers and average broadband speeds.