Broadband gaps everywhere – but especially in Central time zone and Republican districts

The Brookings Institute recently outlined the need to improve broadband availability and adoption across the US. They note that while availability is an issue, adoption is an even greater issue and that every member of Congress represents at least some area that needs help with both.

Republican areas are in greater need of availability …

Broadband is widely available across the country, but Republican members of Congress disproportionally represent populations without physical access to high-speed internet. Overall, Republican House members serve districts where 89.4 percent of residents can physically access a wireline broadband connection. The gap equates to nearly 18.6 million people who physically cannot access broadband in their home. By comparison, Democratic House members represent districts with 97.5 percent coverage, leaving a much smaller gap of 3.5 million people.

Central time zone is in greater need…

Availability gaps are especially pronounced in the Central time zone. Rep. Markwayne Mullin (OK-2) represents the only district in the country where broadband is available to less than half the population. There are five other districts where broadband is available to between 50 and 60 percent of their population, all of which are along this central spine (AL-1, MO-8, LA-5, AR-4, MS-3). While Republicans represent most of the low-availability districts, Democratic-represented districts like AZ-1, MS-2, MN-7, and MN-8 also fall into the bottom quintile of availability, each housing over 150,000 people who cannot connect to broadband in their home.

Republican areas are in greater need of adoption…

Republican legislators represent the bulk of these low-subscribing neighborhoods, which house over 51 million people. Many of the largest gaps are the same districts with limited broadband availability. Yet in others, like Rep. Thomas Rooney’s (FL-17) district in south-central Florida and Rep. Doug Collins’ (GA-9) district in north-central Georgia, broadband is widely available but subscribership is low.

Democratic legislators represent over 22 million people who live in low-subscription neighborhoods. In the districts with the biggest subscription gaps, more often than not broadband is widely available. Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard’s (CA-40) district in east Los Angeles has 100 percent availability, but nearly half-a-million people live in low subscription neighborhoods. Similar subscription challenges in districts with high availability include TX-34, TX-33, and NM-1.

USDA Webinar Nov 17: Rural Glance at Demographics and Broadband Access

Looks like an interesting webinar…

Webinar Details
Date: Friday, November 17, 2017
Time: 1:00 PM EDT
Duration: 1 hour

Host:  John Cromartie, PhD, Geographer, Economic Research Service, USDA

Description:

In this webinar, ERS geographer John Cromartie highlights the most recent indicators of social and economic conditions in rural areas, focusing on population change, employment, income and poverty, as well as trends in access to broadband service. The USDA’s Economic Research Service releases the Rural America at a Glance report annually, which summarizes the status of conditions and trends in rural areas.

Register/Join Meeting

 

Congrats to PCs for People and 1,528 computers distributed in October

From our friends at PCs for People

PCs for People distributed a record 1,528 computers to low income individuals in 45 states in October. That means more than 4,800 people – including 2,334 children – can now study, apply for jobs, improve their technical skills, and do other activities most of us take for granted. More than 1,200 new home Internet hotspots were also handed out last month. The successful October comes on the heels of what was a record-setting September, when 1,256 computers were distributed.

And some fast facts…

Studies continue to show the “Digital Divide” – the lack of a computer and broadband access is a major problem for families in poverty. Digital inclusion is a social justice problem that has far-reaching effects in equity relating to education, health, and income. Only 48 percent of households with incomes below $25,000 have a home internet connection compared to about 85 percent of households with incomes between $50,000 and $100,000.

Nearly one-third of households with school-age children and incomes below $50,000 don’t have Internet access, compared to only about eight percent of the households with school-age children and incomes above $50,000.

 

Good questions about CAF from the Anchor Institutions

A lot of public money is going to be going into broadband. It’s important to spend it wisely. Part of spending it wisely is getting users adequate access for today and tomorrow.

Here’s what SHLB (Schools, Health and Libraries Broadband Coalition) had to say about it…

Anchor institutions like schools, libraries and health care providers play an important role in bringing connectivity to their local communities. But advances in telemedicine and education will not be fully realized if rural consumers do not have adequate broadband service at home.  School aged children will struggle if they cannot do their homework. Individuals with medical conditions that require active monitoring – diabetes, congestive heart failure and more – need broadband at home to transmit critical medical data in real time to medical professionals.

That is why local government officials and anchor institutions should be paying attention to the implementation of the Connect America Fund, now and in the years ahead. The FCC is working to hold an auction in 2018 to award nearly $2 billion in funding over the next decade from Phase II of the Connect America Fund to service providers to extend fixed broadband to unserved residential and small business locations, and a separate auction to award $4.53 billion in funding over a decade from Phase II of the Mobility Fund to mobile wireless providers to extend LTE service to rural America. Any entity willing to provide the requisite level of service set by the FCC and meet other requirements can bid in those auctions for the subsidy.

Local leaders should ask: is it possible to utilize funding in a more coordinated way from E-rate, the Rural Healthcare program, and the Connect America Fund to build a business case to serve the entire community? What efficiencies might be gained from building an integrated broadband network for the entire community? Are the service providers that currently participate in any of these FCC’s universal service programs planning to bid in these upcoming Connect America Fund auctions? Who else might bid?

FCC Commissioner Rosenworcel suggests we crowdsource a broadband map

Today FCC Commissioner Rosenworcel spoke to the US Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation. She spoke to the need of better mapping to assess the broadband situation in the US and she asked consumers to help identify and map where there is no access to broadband:

“If you’ve not been able to get service, or live in an area that lacks it, help us make a map and write me at broadbandfail@fcc.gov. I’ve set this account up to take in your ideas. I will share every one of them with the agency Chairman—and put on pressure to do something about it.”

Broadband can be brutal in Burnsville – a report from the front lines

Sometimes I hear from folks in the field who are frustrated. Today’s letter comes from David Gustafson in Burnsville. It’s a reminder that you don’t have to be remote to be offline – and what sufficient (or insufficient) broadband can mean for productivity…

I have lived south of the Minnesota river since 1967 and have been actively engaged in the technology field since the late 1950s. I have seen some great changes take place, from the early data links operating at 50-100 baud using some of the earliest modems to the very high speed connections that we have today. There are many small communities that have absolutely great connectivity, much, much better than we have in many parts of the metro area.

I presently live in Burnsville, just slightly north of the Ridges hospital. For internet service, I have but two choices. Both are abysmal providers. My cable service was terrible and I could never get the “on demand” feature to work properly. I cancelled their service and had Dish installed to meet my needs. This works very well, except during heavy rains or snow falls, when I revert to local “over the air” for local service. This service is combined with internet and 2 lines of phone access for slightly over $300 per month. It is guestimated that the internet portion is around $55 per month. This is their advertised “high speed internet service”, their premier offering and is supposedly rated at 25 down and 2 mbps up. I have never achieved those numbers. It is a 2 line bonded ADSL service. Typically I get about 15-16 max down and around 1.1 up. This afternoon, I had a 500 mb file to upload to the WETRANSFER.com site and it took over an hour to upload. This is absolutely inexcusable in today’s world.

Although I am retired, I am on the board of a national organization and must move a lot of large files (300-600 megabits) on a regular basis. With speeds of only 1 mbps up, it takes forever and a day to deal with large files. And of course this same situation is fairly common throughout Minnesota. There are a lot of folks in our state who do volunteer work, operate businesses at home, or other types of activities that are very dependent on the ability to transfer files as efficiently as possible. At a very minimum, we should be shooting for 100/100 speed as a minimum throughout our state. To do otherwise, is to short change our citizens. By their very nature, files are getting larger and larger and we really need to keep up with the times. We need fast internet at affordable prices. The present business model for most of our providers is not achieving this goal. We have turned into a nation of excuses for not doing things. We need to turn that around and start doing things that really contribute to the overall betterment of our country.

The Minnesota Broadband Task Force is set to end its tenure after next year. This might be a good time for the legislator to start thinking about who is going to speak for the citizens, who is going to make broadband speeds recommendations once their gone.

Representatives Peterson and Cramer lead bipartisan letter in support of rural broadband funding

From Representative Peterson’s website

This week, Representatives Collin Peterson and Kevin Cramer sent a letter urging the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to address the budget shortfall in the High-Cost Universal Service Fund (USF). The bipartisan letter, signed by 37 Members of Congress, argues that a lack of sufficient funding for rural broadband development puts millions of Americans at a significant disadvantage.

“More than ever, it’s important that we provide rural communities with comparable broadband services for comparable rates,” Peterson said. “We must ensure that the USF fulfills its obligation to provide all Americans with accessible and affordable high-speed connections.”

The letter is increasingly time-sensitive as the FCC considers adjusting the overall USF budget by the end of 2017.

Read the full text of the letter below:

 

Dear Chairman Pai:

We write to request that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) take action to address the budget shortfall in certain parts of the High-Cost Universal Service Fund (USF).  As outlined in a letter sent to you last May by 160 Members of Congress, this lack of sufficient funding puts the rural communities that we represent at a significant disadvantage.

The annual budget instructions through which the High-Cost USF is funded have not been fully utilized since their implementation in 2011. Despite the appearance of surplus funds in the overall budget in prior years, the Rate of Return (ROR) carriers that benefit from High-Cost USF programs have been subject to strict and separate budget caps under actual cost recovery mechanisms and cost model support. These caps limit broadband infrastructure investments in nearly 40 percent of rural America.

Pending comprehensive FCC review or adjustment of the High-Cost USF budget instructions, we strongly urge you to maintain level collections from telecommunications companies into the future. To the extent that the collected sum exceeds High-Cost USF spending obligations at the time, the FCC should directly apply funds to help mitigate or neutralize the budget constraints applied to these smaller, rural operators.

While it is currently unclear how funds that exceed High-Cost USF spending may be obligated under existing budget instructions, their continued collection has the potential to help provide rural communities with comparable broadband services for comparable rates relative to urban areas. In doing so, the country will move closer to the fund’s stated mission to provide all Americans with “accessible, affordable, and pervasive high-speed connectivity.”

Thank you for considering our request. We look forward to working with you to ensure that the “digital divide” does not exclude millions of rural Americans from the services that they, and our economy, depend on.