Brookings looks at broadband access and use – rural areas are falling behind!

Brookings Institute is looking at broadband access and adoption…

As federal, state, and local policymakers pursue universal access to in-home broadband, neighborhood-level indicators confer multiple advantages. First, broadband infrastructure is not deployed equally within regions, municipalities, and rural counties. Identifying these gaps can help target policies to boost availability. Second, understanding how neighborhood-level subscription varies will enable policymakers and practitioners to more effectively target their limited resources to boost adoption among populations and neighborhoods most in need. (In this analysis, neighborhoods are approximated by census tracts. For more information on this and other methodological details, please download the full report.)

It’s interesting and important work. There a lot to unpack in the report – so much that I am doing two posts on it. This morning I’ll look at what we can glean for rural areas and this afternoon I’ll look at what they say about the Twin Cities. I just think two bites are better than a big gulp.

Much of the data used in the report comes from 2015. They use 10/1 (10 Mbps down and 1 Mbps) to measure access through most of the report, which is a definition the FCC has used (certainly it’s the definition they use for most CAF 2 requirements although they do go as low as 4/1). This is frustrating because a lot of lip service is paid to the 25/3 definition but my frustration is with the FCC, not this report. In fact I think this report does a good job of illustrating what a difference a definition makes…

This distinction is especially important at a time when the FCC is talking about lowering the definition of broadband – so more people “will have access”. That sounds an awful lot like two plus two is five. We can call lower speeds broadband but if you can’t Skype with the potential employer – it’s not enough.

Brookings calls out the urban-rural divide specifically…

And a statistic that does not bode well for the future of rural areas…

When seven out of ten teachers assign homework that requires broadband – these kids are losing out and/or they are going about the learning process without a tool that most of us would consider essential to our work and life. They will be behind their urban/wired counterparts when it comes to college assignments or job seeking.

And how many are at risk? Two Thirds of rural residents!

But the report isn’t just about framing the issue. It is a primer for policy makers and those who want to influence policy makers. And here is the image I find most powerful. It details the local government responsibility/regulation. If you are a community – these are your trump cards – based on your geography and seat at the table.

This entry was posted in Policy, Research, Rural by Ann Treacy. Bookmark the permalink.

About Ann Treacy

I have a Master’s Degree in Library and Information Science. I have been interested or involved in providing access to information through the Internet since 1994, when I worked for Minnesota’s first Internet service provider. I am pleased to be a part of the Blandin on Broadband Team. I also work with MN Coalition on Government Information, Minnesota Rural Partners, and the American Society for Information Science and Technology.

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