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FCC identifies seven gaps in delivering broadband access to more Americans

The Federal Communications Commission is starting to quantify gaps in U.S. broadband access as the agency moves forward in trying to develop a National Broadband Plan, which is due to Congress in 90 days.
Gaps cross a diverse range of physical, spectrum and knowledge gaps. The seven gaps identified today are just a starting point in developing a national broadband plan, noted Blair Levin, who is leading the agency’s broadband plan.
Deployment Gaps: Include the high cost of the “middle mile” connection in rural areas, where connection costs can be up to 25 times higher than in rural areas. Agency staff also said between 3% and 8% of U.S. households lack any kind of broadband connection or only have access to the lowest broadband speeds.
Funding Gaps: The Universal Service Fund, which was designed to bring voice telecommunications to high-cost, low-income customers, is not designed to bring data communications to Americans and as such is insufficient in helping allay President Obama’s goal of bringing broadband access to the nation.
Adoption Gaps: Nearly 90% of families with incomes of $100,000 or more subscribe to broadband services, compared to 35% with incomes of $20,000 or less. And people with lower incomes generally have fewer broadband provider choices, which can mean they pay higher prices because there is a lack of competition.
Consumer Knowledge Gaps: Consumers lack access to information about comparable data speeds vs. advertised speeds and many speed-comparison products depend on the user’s computer, not the actual network itself. Here, FCC staff cited a European regulatory agency study that tested networks speeds inside the various broadband networks and published them regularly so consumers could make more informed choices.
Spectrum Gaps: The nation could reach a spectrum shortage problem by 2013 or 2015, depending on a variety of factors. “We know there is a spectrum gap and we know it’s looming,” said FCC Wireless Telecommunications Bureau Chief Ruth Milkman. Since it takes between six and 13 years to clear spectrum, “in our world, 2013 or 2015 is right around the corner.”
Set-top Box Innovation Gap: Even as the TV set is converging with the Internet, the lack of innovation in TV set-top boxes, and the number of devices on the market today, is stifling broadband access, the agency said, noting that 99% of U.S. households have a TV, while only 67% have a computer.
Personal Data Gap:Americans increasingly have information about them online, including personal information, financial information, purchasing behavior and the like, but don’t really have the ability to control that information. Proper security and privacy measures are needed around this data.


Tracy Ford
Tracy Ford
Former Associate Publisher and Executive Editor, RCR Wireless NewsCurrently HetNet Forum Director703-535-7459 [email protected] Ford has spent more than two decades covering the rapidly changing wireless industry, tracking its changes as it grew from a voice-centric marketplace to the dynamic data-intensive industry it is today. She started her technology journalism career at RCR Wireless News, and has held a number of titles there, including associate publisher and executive editor. She is a winner of the American Society of Business Publication Editors Silver Award, for both trade show and government coverage. A graduate of the Minnesota State University-Moorhead, Ford holds a B.S. degree in Mass Communications with an emphasis on public relations.

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