Addressing Gaps in Broadband
Infrastructure and Service Adoption:
A Framework to Guide Policymakers
As Congress and the Biden Administration discuss the appropriate level of broadband funding to ensure every American has access to the opportunities afforded by high-speed internet, it is paramount that they evaluate potential outcomes using the latest, most accurate data. In our new report, Addressing Gaps in Broadband Infrastructure Availability and Service Adoption: A Cost Estimation & Prioritization Framework, we provide lawmakers with the tools they need to address this pressing issue most effectively.
Unlike previous reports of this kind, our report analyzes the latest FCC deployment data available (June 2020), and enhances this analysis by incorporating estimates for locations in partially served census blocks, as well as businesses and anchor institutions. Our framework then determines the cost to deploy gigabit broadband to all “unserved” locations in the country using different performance thresholds to define an “unserved” area. Furthermore, our report assesses the cost to fund adoption programs for low-income households over various program participation rates and durations.
Policymakers can use our report as a framework to evaluate what can be achieved with various levels of spending, as well as what it would take to achieve more ambitious proposals, like establishing universal gigabit broadband service.
Problem: The Broadband Availability and Adoption Gaps
Our report finds that although gigabit availability has increased by 50 percent over the last three years, households that lack 100/20 Mbps service have declined by only 3 percentage points over the same period.
In addition to households known to be unserved to the FCC, our report shows there are an additional estimated 8.2 million households in census blocks reported as “served” that do not have broadband service available. Approximately 12 million households in total, inclusive of these 8.2 million households, do not have access to a baseline level of service.
The broadband adoption gap is a an equal, if not greater, barrier. Today, 30 million households do not subscribe to broadband even where it is available, and 36% of households without a fixed broadband connection have income below $20,000. Additionally, adoption is an issue in both rural and non-rural areas: 29 percent and 28 percent do not connect with existing service, respectively.
Cost to Close the Gaps
Our report shows that both issues – availability and affordability – can be addressed with currently proposed funds: for example, the U.S. can build gigabit broadband to all 19 million locations with less than 100/20 Mbps service, as well as provide subsidies that will enable up to 17 million households to connect to broadband service, for $61-118 billion.
We expect this report will be a helpful tool for policymakers as they move to address this pressing issue.