This week, the FCC released its most accurate, up-to-date, and detailed map of high-speed broadband availability in the United States. It shows which homes and businesses have high-speed broadband – and most importantly, the 8.3 million who don’t. The agency calls this “another step forward” in its efforts to accurately map broadband access.
Measuring how many people have easy access to a high-speed internet connection in a country the size of the US is a tall order. Until last year, the FCC based its broadband availability maps on census blocks. It was understood that if a home or business in a block had high-speed internet service, then they all did. As the FCC itself said in the press release announcing the latest versions of the maps, “Obviously, this methodology left a lot to be desired. The nationwide service was overrated.” least effective and “also provides a less accurate picture of underserved communities because it lacks the detailed data policymakers need if they are to bridge the digital divide.” ”
The good news is that the FCC’s current method is much more effective. While the agency previously counted data from 8.1 million census blocks, the new maps identify more than 114 million locations that could potentially be connected to high-speed broadband. According to the press release, “every household and small business in the country that should have access to high-speed internet service has been identified.”
When the FCC first released a map based on this new data in November last year, it considered it merely a “starting point” and “preliminary draft.” Data in the new map has been updated to reflect “challenges from consumers, states, communities, tribes and other stakeholders” that have been “in full swing over the past few months.”
Apparently, the agency was questioned for the accuracy of the information it used for more than 4 million locations (about 3.5 percent of all locations). These challenges could challenge the availability and speed of the service the map has listed for each home or business. To date, 75 percent of these have been resolved and the map has been updated with the correct information where necessary. In addition, more than a million additional locations have been added. A total of almost 330,000 additional locations were identified that do not have high-speed broadband access. All of this means that the current version is the “best and most accurate broadband map ever made in the United States”.
Of course, while the map is more accurate, much of what it reveals is not good news. The key finding is that 8.3 million homes and businesses — or more than 7 percent of all identified locations — have no access to high-speed broadband. With much of life and work shifting online, people there are at risk of being left behind.
It’s also worth noting that the FCC currently considers a connection with a download speed of 25 Mbps and an upload speed of 3 Mbps to be a high-speed broadband connection. It just doesn’t work that quickly – especially when several people in a house or business depend on the same connection. For example, the FCC recommends a minimum connection of 5 Mbps for streaming HD video and 6 Mbps for HD video conference calls. Just two or three people streaming Netflix or joining a meeting via Zoom could get close to the max – assuming you get the full 25 Mbps at all. (By the way, FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel has suggested expanding the definition of broadband to include 100 Mbps download and 20 Mbps upload, which is much more appropriate for a household or business, although that hasn’t happened yet .And it would likely dramatically increase the number of sites without high-speed access.)
Anyway, broadband access in the US is improving, and the Biden administration has repeatedly invested to give more people access to better internet. If you want to see the cards for yourself, you can now do so on the FCC website. If you think the speed data for your home or business is inaccurate, be sure to file a complaint!