There was a sign of hope earlier this month. A sign that maybe, just maybe, access to fast and affordable Internet was increasing across the country. It's true that developed areas are getting access to faster and cheaper Internet, but rural communities are still getting screwed over according to a new report from the FCC.
The FCC recently wrapped up its annual broadband progress report and published the findings today. There's a bit of good news to be had, but there's plenty that needs to be worked on according to the report. There is still a lot of people who have no access to broadband Internet.
Let's start with the good news first: the FCC found that more people have access to broadband Internet than last year. They found that 7 million more people in the U.S. now have access to what the FCC considers broadband - 4 Mbps or higher.
With the addition of 7 million people, 94 percent of Americans now have access to the Internet. Most of those people are getting their access through cable or DSL. Unfortunately, super fast Fiber makes up less than 20 percent of American households, but that number should increase by a bit once Google Fiber launches in Kansas City later this year.
In other good news, the U.S. is now the global leader in 4G wireless coverage. You can thank the wireless wars in the U.S. for that as all the major carriers are competing to outshine the rest in terms of 4G coverage.
All good things must come to an end, however, and that's where the bad news begins. Even with a 7 million increase in broadband access, there are still an estimated 19 million Americans who lack access to basic broadband. It's important to remind you that the FCC is rather generous in defining broadband at 4 Mbps. It's kind of sad that people in rural areas can't even get speeds at which other people take for granted.
What's worse is that an alarming 40 percent of people who can purchase broadband choose not to. Why would anybody deny themselves the convenience? The cost or a perception that the Internet isn't useful to their everyday lives. It's easy to understand the latter reason, especially for folks who didn't grow up with the Internet, but it's a shame that cost is still a factor in the proliferation of broadband.
The cost is always going to be the biggest obstacle to the spread of broadband throughout the country. The worst part is that the cost isn't just stopping people from upgrading to broadband from DSL or dial-up, but it's also preventing people from getting faster Internet. The cost of Internet is still abhorrently expensive. Until prices come down, you're not going to see the FCC's goal of 100 million homes with 100 Mbps downstream/50 Mbps upstream become a reality.
You can read the rest of the FCC report here. It's a long read, but there's plenty of good stuff in there about the present state of the Internet in the U.S. It also gives some hope that the situation on cost and availability may be improving. We'll have to wait until next year's report to find out.