The National Telecommunications and Information Association (NTIA) recently released the results of the nation’s first interactive map of broadband availability – a charge that was spearheaded by federal and state level stakeholders. According to NTIA, broadband options are available to 95% of Americans. These options can include a variety of services ranging from DSL or cable to wireless connections.
This is great news; however, NTIA’s map also highlights that there are spotty coverage areas, particularly within rural communities – despite noteworthy efforts to buildout to rural communities in recent years. The FCC’s admission that it would like to tackle Universal Service Fund (USF) reform may prove useful in helping to address some of the disparities that NTIA’s map showcases. Through USF reform, the FCC would likely alter the program to also include broadband; thereby creating new economic opportunities and incentives for broadband service providers to deploy networks in unserved areas – something that we undeniably need more of.
In fact, NTIA’s February 2011 update, part of the group’s ongoing Digital Nation series which provides an overview of U.S. broadband adoption rates in the U.S., provides a dim reminder that minority groups still lag in broadband adoption. While the overall broadband adoption rate continues to increase each year, African-Americans, Hispanics, and low-income Americans continue are not keeping pace with the rest of the country when it comes to adopting broadband. As reported by the Minority Media and Telecom Council, “half of all African-Americans and 55% of Hispanics have yet to adopt this technology at home. These findings echo data released by NTIA in November 2010, which found that a significant component of the digital divide is attributable to racial factors.”