Large portions of the western and southern US population have no access to wired or fixed broadband, according to new data. The findings, from a new national broadband map released by two US agencies, shows that between 5 percent and 10 percent of the US population lacks access to broadband that supports basic applications, including downloading Web pages, photos and video.
The report finds that about one-third of U.S. households still lack a broadband internet connection. Furthermore, 5% to 10% of Americans only have access to internet services that are too slow to even support a basic set of online functions, such as downloading Web pages, photos or video.
The broadband map, developed by the U.S. National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), was released the map in cooperation with the U.S. Federal Communications Commission.
Mobile broadband is a huge part of the future of internet access, which is why the Obama administration is pushing for its National Wireless Initiative, which would expand wireless broadband networks to cover where 98% of Americans live.
However, ubiquitous availability is not the same thing as equitable access, and lax federal net neutrality requirements for wireless carriers might especially hinder the internet experience for cost-conscious mobile users.
According to the telecommunications administration, 36% of Americans "have access to wireless internet service at maximum advertised download speeds of 6 Mbps or greater, which some consider the minimum speed associated with '4G' wireless broadband service."
The map will help broadband providers and government agencies target areas that need broadband service, and help consumers compare service and speed, said Julius Genachowski, the FCC's chairman. The first release of the map is "just the beginning," he said during a press conference.
"Millions of Americans live in areas where they can't get broadband even if they wanted because the infrastructure simply isn't there," he added.
The NTIA also announced new broadband adoption information Thursday. About 68.2 percent of U.S. residents subscribe to broadband now, compared to 63.5 percent a year ago, said Rebecca Blank, acting deputy secretary at the U.S. Department of Commerce, the NTIA's parent agency.
The growth is "good news, but when you dig deeper into the data, it's clear that we still have work to do," Blank said.
White households have an adoption rate about 20 percent higher than African-American or Hispanic households, she said. The adoption rate in rural areas is about 10 percent behind urban areas, she added.
The broadband map also shows that schools and libraries have slower broadband speeds than they need, added Larry Strickling, NTIA's administrator. Schools with 1,000 students should have broadband speeds of 50 to 100 Mbps, but two-thirds of schools in the U.S. have speeds lower than 25 Mbps, he said. Only 4 percent of libraries have speeds above 25 Mbps, he added.
The map was created using open-source software such as the OpenGEO Suite and WordPress, and the agencies will make the map's APIs (application programming interfaces) available to all developers and entrepreneurs who want to offer services tied to the map, NTIA and FCC officials said.
The agencies will update the data in the map every six months, and the map includes a feature where users can report information about broadband providers in their area.