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National Broadband Map Details Disparities

Up to 10 percent of Americans lack access to broadband Internet access speeds of at least 4 Mbits/s downstream, or enough speed to download Web pages, photos, and video, according to the National Broadband Map unveiled by the Department of Commerce Thursday.

In addition to taking the wraps off of an interactive map containing 25 million records provided by 1,600 broadband providers nationwide, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration released a report that found 68 percent of households have broadband access from cable modems, DSL, fiber, or mobile broadband -- up from 63.5 percent last year.

“It’s clear that we still have work to do. Racial, Regional, and income disparities still exist,” Acting U.S. Deputy Secretary of Commerce Rebecca Blank told reporters Thursday, noting that the broadband adoption rate in rural areas is 10 percent less than those in urban areas. “The broadband map will help address disparities by making it clear where resources should be focused,” she added.

The map shows that 36 percent of Americans have access to 4G wireless broadband services of speeds of 6 Mbit/s or greater, and that 95 percent of Americans have access to 3G wireless Internet access of at least 768 Kbits/s. It also finds that two thirds of schools subscribe to Internet access packages with speeds lower than 25 Mbit/s, and that 4 percent of libraries have Internet access of speeds greater than 25 Mbit/s.

Why this matters
The National Broadband Map, which was mandated as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and cost about $200 million to create, gives legislators and regulators data that could be used to determine how to best expand broadband penetration in the U.S. It also documents where existing broadband ISPs aren't providing affordable broadband Internet access in rural and low-income areas and gives the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) data that could be used in an upcoming rulemaking proceeding involving whether the Universal Service Fund should be used to subsidize broadband adoption.

While the map doesn’t offer information about pricing from the broadband services available in each community, it contains links to every ISP serving homes, and could help consumers shop for broadband providers.

For more
For more about broadband adoption, please check out these stories:



— Steve Donohue, Special to Light Reading Cable

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