Federal broadband service map reveals need for connectivity

The data show that community anchor institutions are largely underserved. For example, based on studies by state education technology directors, most schools need a connection of 50 to 100 Mbps per 1,000 students. The data show that two-thirds of surveyed schools subscribe to speeds lower than 25 Mbps, however. In addition, only four percent of libraries reported subscribing to speeds greater than 25 Mbps.

“Ensuring high-speed broadband access for all students is a critical national issue and foundational to realizing our education reform and improvement goals,” said Douglas Levin, executive director of the State Educational Technology Directors Association (SETDA). SETDA research contributed to NTIA data about school connectivity.

High-speed access is especially important in areas where learning opportunities are limited, such as rural areas where students may not have access to higher-level courses.

“Students everywhere need access to rich educational tools and resources, teachers need access for professional development and to engage in professional learning communities, [and] administrators need high-speed broadband access to conduct online assessments and to access data for effective decision-making,” Levin said. “Simply put, without continued and direct investment in broadband and educational technologies, education reformers are asking schools to improve, innovate, and compete with one hand tied behind their back.”

FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski said: “The release of the National Broadband Map, the first of its kind in the nation, is a significant milestone.  This cutting-edge tool will continue to evolve with the help of new data and user feedback. It will provide consumers, companies, and policymakers with a wealth of information about broadband availability, speeds, competition, and technology, and help Americans make better informed choices about their broadband services.”

Approximately 36 percent of Americans have access to wireless (fixed, mobile, licensed, and unlicensed) internet service at maximum advertised download speeds of 6 Mbps or greater, which some consider the minimum speed associated with “4G” wireless broadband service. Ninety-five percent of Americans have access to wireless internet service speeds of at least 768 kbps, which corresponds roughly to “3G” wireless service.

The map will serve a variety of uses. For example, federal, state, and local policy makers can compare broadband availability among geographic areas and across demographic groups, which can inform policies to support private sector investments in deploying broadband. The data can assist broadband providers in assessing new business opportunities and economic developers as they work to attract businesses to, or address barriers to investment in, their communities. The map will also help consumers and small businesses learn about the broadband service options in their neighborhood or where they may relocate.

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