Obama Administration: Digital Divide Still Needs Work

The National Telecommunications & Information Administration says there are still a lot of people unable to reap the benefits of broadband.

As administrations wind down, status reports tend to multiply as agencies take stock of what they have done and what still needs doing.

In a report from the Broadband Opportunity Council, comprising representatives of 25 agencies and charged by the President with expanding broadband deployment and adoption, the government signaled that "there are still a large number of Americans unable to access broadband at the speeds necessary to make full use of its benefits."

Using data from the FCC and National Telecommunications & Information Administration, the report lays out the case for the continuing digital divide.

Those included both adoption and deployment gaps:

"10 percent of all Americans (34 million people) lack access to fixed broadband as currently defined by the FCC (25 Mbps downstream/3 mbps upstream)."

"39 percent of rural Americans (23 million people) lack access to fixed broadband."

"41 percent of Americans living on tribal lands (1.6 million people) lack access to fixed broadband."

"In 2015, 33 million households (27 percent of all U.S. households) did not use the Internet at home, where families can more easily share Internet access and conduct sensitive online transactions privately."

"26 million households—one-fifth of all households—were entirely offline."

The report concludes that it will take sustained engagement and interagency coordination for many years to come to finish the job, which is universal access to high-speed broadband. 

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.