Image: jarmoluk (Pixabay)

Data from Microsoft suggests that the FCC’s data on U.S. broadband usage is far from accurate. Just because high-speed service may be available, it doesn’t mean that most people can afford it. It also shows how just one person using broadband can skew the results when their neighbors are not, causing the area to be marked as receiving broadband. The Verge has created a map based on Microsoft’s data and broke it down by county for each state, which shows that poorer communities may have access but are not using it.

The disparity between FCC reports and the Microsoft data can be shocking. In Lincoln County, Washington, an area west of Spokane with a population just a hair over 10,000, the FCC lists 100 percent broadband availability. But according to Microsoft’s data, only 5 percent of households are actually connecting at broadband speeds.

Sources: GitHub, The Verge

Peter Brosdahl

As a child of the 70’s I was part of the many who became enthralled by the video arcade invasion of the 1980’s. Saving money from various odd jobs I purchased my first computer from a friend of my...

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5 Comments

  1. 2 separate issues that do not seem exclude each other.

    Yup. The definition of "available" by the FCC is so broad that it isn’t practical. If you have a 4G tower anywhere nearby, regardless of if you can connect to it or not, or if DSL with speeds >25Mb is available nearby, regardless of if you can get that speed at all, or if one of the satellite services are available in your area… then it’s "available" to you.

  2. Yup. The definition of "available" by the FCC is so broad that it isn’t practical. If you have a 4G tower anywhere nearby, regardless of if you can connect to it or not, or if DSL with speeds >25Mb is available nearby, regardless of if you can get that speed at all, or if one of the satellite services are available in your area… then it’s "available" to you.

    The comparison of the numbers is insightful: literally half of CONUS has "access" to broadband that they don’t use, and logically, some percentage of those people can’t actually get those speeds, and some other percentage just cannot afford those speeds in the first place (and some minor percentage choose not to purchase service regardless).

  3. There are 2 issues this brings to light – not that they are new or sudden insights.

    The first is the FCC. Clearly too much lobby influence there. The definition of "broadband" is laughable. The definition of "available" is useless. The fact that it ignores basic things like data caps and pricing is irresponsible at best. You can have the best crafted legistaltion and policies in existence, but when the definition of basic terms are compromised, it contradicts all of that, it turns it into meaningless hollow words.

    The second is just how large of an issue this is.

    I wish it would get fixed, but money talks, and the current dominance of ISPs will take a lot to overcome, I’m afraid.

  4. The definition of "broadband" is laughable.

    If we’re talking ‘minimum’ here, the only issue I have is that the ’25mbps’ service includes limited mobile service. I’d be on board if folks that provably don’t have a terrestrial line at their residence could get a major discount on mobile, and keeping throttling to periods of time when providers again can prove that there’s the potential for outright service denial.

    25mbps itself is fine as a minimum. It’s enough for streaming 4k video, it’s enough to sync files for work, and it’s enough to install and update software. Plenty for video conferencing as well. If you need to upload or download something really big, you can either buy faster service (if available) or go somewhere that does like a restaurant. Plenty of more rural folks I know go to MickieD’s for their larger transfers when needed.

    The second is just how large of an issue this is.

    Had some tourists from Sweden I met in Edinburgh. One had driven across the US already in her early twenties, and while commenting on our relative ‘weirdness’, she mentioned that the US was somewhat odd in having so many different laws in each state. So we looked up the population numbers.

    At the time, Sweden was approaching 10m, while California was at 41m and Texas at 25m.

    It’s a big issue, and one that is fairly socioeconomically unique to the US. Pick a comparison, then make a list of the differences; the US is just different.

    What I wouldn’t mind, and I’m not a fan of government forcing things usually, is having internet access becoming the same level of basic service as power, water, and phone access. Both major parties are pretty well equally bad here; both argue different sides of a nonsequiteur at the behest of their donors and both fail to represent their voters.

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