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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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RE: I don't get it...
By AEvangel on 8/12/2010 2:11:16 PM , Rating: -1
Yes, that was their belief and they were wrong, since the Rural Electrification Act ended up spending millions of dollars building a rural electricity network that is now failing and no one has the money to fix. Since the people it provide electricity for neither really needed it or demanded it at that time. So their was no profit in it for companies their for no investment to keep the system updated or efficient since the belief that the Govt will always be their to bail it out or feed it tax money to repair it.

The problem with the Rural Electrification Act just like with high speed internet is until their is a demand for it the people themselves will not pay for it so in effect you are providing a service with no real consumer demand. the market will determine when something is needed and will then supply it. The govt will only artificially inflate the need and the demand leading to bust and boom cycle like we have now.


RE: I don't get it...
By eskimospy on 8/12/2010 2:20:29 PM , Rating: 2
Please provide objective sources that back up their claims which state the REA was a mistake to create.

I have seen arguments for the discontinuation of the REA in the 1990's (and that's what happened), but I have never seen a non-ideological case for the REA being a failure either on the whole or as implemented by FDR.


RE: I don't get it...
By tastyratz on 8/12/2010 4:20:49 PM , Rating: 1
I think the REA was great. We need internet access in some usable form in all areas of the country just as we need electricity. The problem is that the uneducated public could easily be swayed through presentation of this poll, especially could be based on location of residence.

Nobody considers the business requirements these days for online connectivity, and most people don't know just how neglected us coverage is compared to other countries. People take for granted their internet connections and the ones who don't? aren't online to bitch about it.

This poll just in! 92% of individuals in somalia believe food and water delivery should be top priority with the government. Individuals in california posted drastically different numbers. Researchers are still stumped.


RE: I don't get it...
By rcc on 8/13/2010 1:03:40 PM , Rating: 2
Don't be silly. Go run your poll in Hollywood. 92% of the population there probably agree that food and water in Somalia is a top priority. Even over correcting the problems we already have locally.

After all, it's all about image you know.


RE: I don't get it...
By tastyratz on 8/13/2010 1:51:35 PM , Rating: 3
thats just because in hollywood nobody eats. I just want to start whipping hamburgers every time a model yawns and hope for a direct hit before their ribcage tans like tiger stripes from the shadows in the depth.


RE: I don't get it...
By Ammohunt on 8/12/2010 2:22:37 PM , Rating: 2
hmm sounds alot like the stimulus creating or saving millions of governemnt jobs.


RE: I don't get it...
By HighWing on 8/12/2010 3:41:35 PM , Rating: 1
I would just like to point out that I know for a fact there "IS" a demand in many areas that do not have high-speed internet access, and there "IS" a profit to be made beyond one or two households. The problem is that there is usually stretch of no-profit zone that cable needs to be laid to reach those profit areas. Thus rising the cost of reaching certain areas.


RE: I don't get it...
By JediJeb on 8/12/2010 4:09:48 PM , Rating: 5
My parents live in a rural area of Ky, and they will soon have high speed internet there supplied by a local independent telephone company. This company has already laid fiber to most of the small towns in the area and is now running fiber out to the rest of its customers. If some small local phone company can do this without some government program, they why can't a big company like AT&T do it? This company is privately owned and has been for years. It supplied the rural areas there with phone service even before Bell came into the area to serve the larger towns back in the early 50s.

We don't need a government program to get high speed internet out to the rural areas, we just need to get the big companies like AT&T out of the way. The market is there, and in this case the company saw a way to make a profit from it and went for it.


RE: I don't get it...
By Lerianis on 8/13/2010 11:09:33 PM , Rating: 2
Good point. With the MASSIVE PROFITS that AT&T, Verizon, etc. post, they should be able to do 'last mile' stuff pretty damned much everywhere.

The only reason they moan and bitch about not being able to do it is because they are GREEDY to the extreme, and don't want to put out any money to improve their networks.


RE: I don't get it...
By HoosierEngineer5 on 8/14/2010 8:02:45 PM , Rating: 1
The real question remains - who 'owns' the last mile? If you pay for a gallon of milk, you own it. If you pay monthly charges for an Internet connection, why don't you own it?


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