The FCC's latest broadband survey reveals many Americans have no access, and that competition is limited in many other areas.  (Source: FCC)
Recent FCC study finally goes in depth

The FCC's 2006 study looking at the state of broadband in the U.S. was heavily criticized, including receiving flak from the Government Accountability Office (GAO).  After all, if it found just one connected broadband connection in a zip code, it counted that entire zip code as covered.  And if it found two nodes connected by different companies that was a "competitive" market.

Now the FCC has released [PDF] a more comprehensive report in lieu of its national broadband plan, and the results aren't so pretty.  Approximately 14 to 24 million Americans nation wide lack access to broadband.  The prospects of those individuals getting broadband aren't good. 

FCC chairman Julius Genachowski writes that most of the unserved live in "expensive-to-serve areas with low population density," and that "without substantial reforms to the agency's universal service programs, these areas will continue to be unserved."

The study ditches the former definition of broadband (200 kbps upstream or downstream) and offers a more stringent definition -- any connection that peaks at 4 Mbps downstream, 1 Mbps upstream.

The report also finds that many more Americans only have access to between 1 to 3 options.  Despite federal antitrust laws, many believe that telecoms have worked together to drive smaller competitors out of the market.  In some regions telecoms have openly sue local broadband efforts and poured millions towards local politicians to ban the initiatives.

The result is a lack of competition that fosters slow, unreliable connections and artificially high prices.

Telecoms were quick to trash the report, which they say "strained credulity".  And Rep. Cliff Stearns (R-Fla.), ranking member of the House Communications Subcommittee and big telecom allycomments, "I am perplexed by the FCC report’s conclusion."

The FCC plan is to sell wireless spectrum and use the proceeds to build a broadband network to provide an additional coverage option to 100 million American homes.  The European Union nation of Finland recently declared the internet a fundamental right, and that definitely appears to be the direction the FCC is trending in as well.

"We are going to continue to work with them to make sure they understand the reality of the Internet.  A lot of these people don't have Ph.Ds, and they don't have a degree in computer science." -- RIM co-CEO Michael Lazaridis

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