Broadband technologies are getting better and faster — but access to them is still concentrated in metro areas and suburbs, leaving vast swaths of the country with marginal service or nothing at all.
Benefits of the broadband advances are mostly going to consumers who already have plenty of options for robust internet connections. Despite efforts to narrow the digital divide, rural areas, small towns and low-income neighborhoods in big cities still struggle to have access to reliable and affordable broadband service.
The Federal Communications Commission last week voted to require broadband service providers to report more detailed data about where their networks are available after criticism that the agency’s data overstates broadband access. The agency also proposed directing $20 billion over 10 years to fund network expansion in unserved places.
Last week, Verizon announced that 5G is now available in parts of four additional cities — Washington, D.C., Atlanta, Detroit and Indianapolis — and says it plans to have 5G service in more than 30 cities by the end of the year. However, its new service in some cities like Chicago has been spotty and limited.
$20 billion is a good start, but “it’s still going to be tough to get coverage everywhere,” said Shirley Bloomfield, CEO of NTCA, which represents rural, community internet providers.
MacDailyNews Take: As 5G builds out, hopefully it will improve broadband access, options (and, therefore, via competition, pricing) in rural areas, small towns and low-income neighborhoods in big cities.