The FCC says its efforts to help close the digital divide in the United States are working, with the broadband gap narrowing “substantially.”
A draft of the FCC’s annual report to Congress on broadband deployment showed the number of Americans without access to a fixed broadband connection dropped by more than 25 percent since last year’s report. At the end of 2017 there were still 19.4 million people in the country lacking access to high-speed internet — though a significant improvement from the 26.1 million without access at the end of 2016. The FCC benchmark for broadband speeds require at least 25 Mbps download and 3 Mbps up.
“This report shows that our approach is working,” FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said in a statement. “But we won’t rest until all Americans can have access to broadband and the 21st century opportunities it provides to communities everywhere.”
“For the past two years, closing the digital divide has been the FCC’s top priority,” Pai said. “We’ve been tackling this problem by removing barriers to infrastructure investment, promoting competition, and providing efficient, effective support for rural broadband expansion through our Connect America Fund.”
The draft 2019 Broadband Deployment Report shows most Americans gaining access to high-speed internet—about 5.6 million— live in rural areas where deployments have typically been slow.
In 2018 the private sector deployed fiber to 5.9 million new homes—a record-high number, according to the FCC.
Access to speeds above the 25 Mbps threshold is also improving, with broadband speeds of 100 Mbps/10 Mbps available to 290.9 million Americans, up 20 percent. Americans with access to speeds of 250 Mbps/50Mbps grew by more than 45 percent to 205.2 million.
Broadband deployments are happening at a reasonable pace, the report concludes.
The Commission will vote on the report in the coming weeks.