Business, Economics and Jobs

US lags behind in broadband access


A free Wi-Fi hotspot beams broadband internet from atop a public phone booth on July 11, 2012 in Manhattan, New York City. New York City launched a pilot program Wednesday to provide free public Wi-Fi at public phone booths around the five boroughs. The first ten booths were lit up with Wi-Fi routers attached to the top of existing phone booths, with six booths in Manhattan, two in Brooklyn, and one in Queens. Additional locations, including ones in the Bronx and Staten Island, are to be added soon.


John Moore

The US is still lagging behind other developed nations in levels of broadband internet availability. Nineteen million Americans still lack broadband access, according to the Eight Broadband Progress Report, issued by the Federal Communications Commission.

“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,” read the report. 

The US ranked 16th last year in fixed broadband subscriptions per 100 inhabitants, according to a report by the International Telecommunications Union. Several European countries, along with South Korea and Hong Kong, beat out the United States. 

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The situation is the worst in rural areas where only one quarter of US citizens have access to broadband, highlighting the lack of infrastructure exacerbating the problem. In tribal zones, one third of the population lacks access. 

Through the “Connect America Fund,” the FCC hopes to expand broadband access to nearly 400,000 residents and business owners in the next three years. However, the project has been slow to get off the groun. 

“The report concludes that until the Commission’s Connect America reforms are fully implemented, these gaps are unlikely to close. Because millions still lack access to or have not adopted broadband, the Report concludes broadband is not yet being deployed in a reasonable and timely fashion.”

Along with a lack of broadband access, Americans are also paying more money for slower internet than their counterparts in the developed world. In many examples, Americans weren’t just paying a few dollars more — they were sometimes paying double their foreign counterparts. 

In Paris, a consumer will pay $35 for a 100 megabits per second (Mbps) bundle of television, internet and telephone. A resident of Lafayette, Louisiana will pay $65 for the same package with just 6 Mbps. Even more expensive, Verizon charges New York City customers $154 for their least expensive “triple play” bundle.

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High prices may very well be contributing to the lack of access to broadband subscription. While lack of infrastructure may stop urban residents from accessing broadband, more than 100 million Americans do not subscribe even when access is available. 

“Because millions still lack access to or have not adopted broadband, the Report concludes broadband is not yet being deployed in a reasonable and timely fashion,” read the FCC report.