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U.S. broadband coverage (click to enlarge)  (Source: FCC)
Public sentiment is that its best to leave 80 million Americans unconnected to "high speed" broadband

While it's hard to put an exact number on how many Americans have no internet coverage, there are still some regions of the country in which less than 5 percent of the population has access to the internet.  Depending on how you define "high speed", over 80 million Americans, or about a quarter of the population, have no access to the high speed broadband that the modern web relies on so heavily.

Interestingly, a public poll from the Pew Institute indicates that the majority of Americans aren't very concerned with pushing better coverage for these individuals.  The phone survey (which would only be conducted via landline phones) asked 2,252 adults (aged 18 and older) whether expanding affordable broadband should be a top priority for the government and 53 percent of those polled responded "No".

In total, 26 percent said the government should play no part in pushing out high-speed internet; 27 percent indicated they didn't care if it did, but that it was "not too important"; 30 percent said it was important, and 11 percent said it should be a 
top priority. 

The poll, which can be found here, also offered other interesting results -- for example, growth in internet use among African Americans is outpacing that of white Americans.

Aaron Smith, author of the Pew Internet Project's report, comments, "A debate has arisen about the role of government in stepping in to ensure availability to high-speed Internet access for all Americans.  The majority think not, and the surprise is that non-users are the least inclined to think government has a role in the spread of broadband."

The Federal Communications Commission -- led by appointees of U.S. President Barack Obama -- has made it clear that it thinks that broadband access 
should be a top priority.  It's in the process of deploying a scheme to offer high-speed 100 Mbps internet to 100M U.S. homes and to extend cable coverage to areas that currently cost to much to deploy to (according to the telecommunication companies).

If the recent poll is any indication, the FCC's plan may prove unpopular. 

The debate over internet coverage isn't just a U.S. one, though.  Internationally, the level of coverage, freedom of information, and net neutrality are hotly debated issues.  Finland recently propelled the debate to the forefront when it legislated broadband internet as an essential human right.

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By JonInVA on 8/12/2010 12:39:17 PM , Rating: 4 is simply unavailable in certain rural areas. That is not the government's problem.

If you want to buy a boat, you buy a home near water. If you want to buy high speed Internet access, you buy a home in an area with a broadband provider.

It's not like this is news to anybody - especially those who choose to live in rural areas. You make certain lifestyle trade-offs to live in certain areas (easy access to hospitals, schools, retail locations, traffic, cost of living, etc). Access to high speed Internet access is one of those trade-offs that must be considered when choosing where to live.

Would tax dollars ever be used to put a Starbucks with a mile of everybody's house? Clearly not. Why then are we even having this debate about high speed Internet access? If I want it, I'll live where I can get it.

By Schrag4 on 8/12/2010 1:20:07 PM , Rating: 3
Yeah, really. I take particular offense to the subtitle:

Public sentiment is that its best to leave 80 million Americans unconnected to "high speed" broadband

The article mentions that a large percentage of "unconnected" survey participants don't want the government to tackle broadband coverage as a "High Priority". It doesn't mean they don't want broadband coverage, it just means they understand that the government has a few other issues that should be higher priority since they affect them more than broadband coverage.

By clovell on 8/12/2010 2:52:43 PM , Rating: 2
I dunno - I think a lot of people stand to really benefit from it.

That's a pretty poor analogy, too - a boat is really a luxury. Internet usage has become ubiquitous in many common areas of American life - like education. A better analogy might be to relate it to availability of telephone lines.

By wempa on 8/13/2010 12:45:18 PM , Rating: 2
Exactly. If you want to live out in the middle of nowhere, then don't complain when you don't have all the conveniences of living in a city or suburb. Besides, EVERYBODY has access to some form of cheap internet, whether it be dial-up, wireless or satellite. It may not be ideal, but it's not like this lack of a good internet connection is causing them to starve or anything. As others have said, there are way more important things that should get higher priority.

By HoosierEngineer5 on 8/14/2010 8:16:27 PM , Rating: 3
Got news for you. MOST Americans built their homes BEFORE the Internet was widespread, and well before wideband became other than a luxury. In fact, I'll bet that a large percentage of individuals either assumed broadband would be available the same time copper was run, or would soon be available. In my case, the local cable company was clueless, and Fios was advertised as being available in the future. Also - can anyone answer why it's more expensive to provide a packet-switched data network (i.e. party line), as opposed to a dedicated interface (private line)?

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