The Federal Communications Commission announced Tuesday that more Americans are connected to broadband, signaling an important step forward for startups and small businesses across the country. The commission released its Eighth Broadband Progress Report -- a congressionally-mandated overview of expansion of broadband -- that reported about 19 million people lack broadband access, seven million fewer than in its 2011 overview.
While Google Fiber gigabit speeds in Kansas City have grabbed headlines in recent weeks, vast areas of the United States lack access to adequate internet services. Rural communities in particular are cut off from communications infrastructure, limiting entrepreneurial opportunities for web-based businesses in these areas.
Broadband is the most basic tool startups require to succeed. Whether a young company is developing ground-breaking software, creating the next best-selling video game, or simply setting up an online storefront, businesses need connection speeds that support the services they need.
Inadequate dial-up or expensive satellite link services are the only options in many areas, limiting the connectivity of current devices. Economically, many far-flung communities are difficult to connect for telecoms, as they offer little or no return on investment. The economic stimulus passed by Congress in 2009 allocated billions of dollars to alleviate this pressure, but administrative requirements and the seasonal nature of construction has hindered the deployment of internet services to neighborhoods and homes.
The report is good news, but more needs to be done to connect the 19 million Americans cut off from broadband opportunity. Engine will continue to advocate for innovative strategies to close the broadband gap, including TV white spaces, subsidy reform, and municipal fiber. There isn’t one simple solution for closing the broadband gap, but these tools are available to policymakers and should be explored and tested.
Image via broadbandmap.gov