The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) released its 2018 (using 2016 data) broadband progress report this week. The report concludes that 7.7 percent of the U.S. population does not have access to fixed broadband of at least 25 Mbps down and 3 Mbps up (definition-page 6). However, this number jumps to 30.7 percent of the population lacking access in rural areas of the country and 35.4 percent in tribal lands.
This lack of access, or part of what is known as the “digital divide”, has a significant negative impact on community economic development. Last year, Microsoft proposed a plan to bridge part of this divide by utilizing TV white space (unused spectrum in the Ultra High Frequency [UHF] television bands) to offer affordable and reliable broadband connectivity to those areas that do not have access.
As part of this plan, the Connect Americans Now was formed and now has more than 50 regional and national organizations engaging policy makers in a meaningful dialogue on the most effective ways to ensure all communities benefit from high-speed broadband coverage. The Purdue Center for Regional Development (PCRD) has been selected as a national member of the Connect Americans Now initiative given the Center’s broadband-related activities. In particular, PCRD is helping provide timely information on broadband access to regions and counties in the state, and to deliver educational programs (in partnership with Purdue University Extension) that help accelerate broadband adoption on the part of businesses and households, especially in underserved urban and rural areas of Indiana.