After $3.3B Spent, more than 39 Million Americans Still Only Have Access to 1 Wired Broadband Provider

In 2010, the FCC reported to Congress that “broadband is not being deployed to all Americans in a reasonable and timely fashion.” [1][2]

Since that time, the US Government has spent over $3.3B on broadband infrastructure grants via the BTOP program managed by the NTIA.

According the the NTIA website, these grants were designed to “Expand broadband access and adoption in communities across America.” [3]

Yet as of the 2013 over 39 Million Americans (12.1% of the population) only have access to 0 or 1 broadband providers, leaving these consumers without a competitive market and no alternative provider to switch to if they are dissatisfied.[4]

March 2015 Update: In a report published by the FCC after this article was written, it states “Recent data show that approximately 55 million Americans (17 percent) live in areas unserved by fixed 25 Mbps/3 Mbps broadband or higher service” which is worse than the data below displays.

You can read the FCC’s full 2015 report to congress here.

The Most underserved states in the USA

Below is a breakdown of the underserved populations in each state along with the amount of money each state received in federal infrastructure grants.

States with the largest populations underserved, the percentage of that state underserved, and the amount of money received via broadband infrastructure grants from the BTOP program.
Rank State Underserved Population % of Population Underserved Infrastructure Grants
1 Texas 4,388,546 16.52% $67,698,503
2 California 2,779,519 7.24% $350,064,330
3 Missouri 1,489,631 24.41% $71,745,250
4 Oklahoma 1,265,136 32.8% $83,470,346
5 Alabama 1,248,808 25.58% $91,596,026
6 Ohio 1,237,541 10.67% $141,300,142
7 Georgia 1,235,729 12.19% $69,687,765
8 Wisconsin 1,213,772 20.98% $57,969,654
9 Virginia 1,207,875 14.56% $92,995,941
10 South Carolina 1,104,939 22.95% $9,604,840
11 Illinois 1,096,278 8.45% $173,923,501
12 Michigan 1,078,431 10.93% $108,574,985
13 Florida 1,046,321 5.32% $55,902,591
14 Tennessee 1,031,116 15.74% $15,865,636
15 North Carolina 995,726 9.97% $120,685,297
16 Louisiana 907,699 19.79% $89,759,799
17 Minnesota 890,085 16.41% $36,200,630
18 New York 808,598 4.13% $38,938,988
19 Arizona 803,315 11.89% $71,464,944
20 Arkansas 797,684 26.65% $102,131,393
21 Kentucky 714,053 16.09% $535,308
22 Mississippi 710,604 23.63% $102,364,489
23 Indiana 689,684 10.43% $39,397,487
24 Iowa 675,209 21.84% $33,945,037
25 West Virginia 611,369 32.7% $129,525,056
26 Kansas 606,591 20.85% $998,419
27 Pennsylvania 589,469 4.58% $128,444,692
28 Washington 545,109 7.79% $166,058,182
29 New Mexico 520,165 24.34% $76,978,670
30 Colorado 439,904 8.35% $112,772,612
31 Hawaii 425,284 30.23% $33,972,800
32 Montana 378,393 37.17% $13,796,640
33 Idaho 372,868 22.65% $8,169,716
34 Maryland 362,611 6.11% $115,240,581
35 Utah 325,285 11.09% $31,048,683
36 Nebraska 303,650 16.25% $11,547,866
37 Oregon 288,487 7.28% $20,548,476
38 South Dakota 273,033 32.62% $20,572,242
39 Nevada 196,734 6.83% $26,713,723
40 Alaska 187,736 25.35% $0
41 Wyoming 182,935 31.28% $10,671,802
42 New Jersey 152,187 1.7% $39,638,152
43 Massachusetts 148,378 2.23% $77,517,537
44 Maine 122,213 9.11% $25,402,904
45 Vermont 112,081 17.77% $45,649,894
46 New Hampshire 81,727 6.11% $44,480,992
47 Connecticut 77,079 2.12% $93,855,029
48 North Dakota 60,550 8.77% $10,781,157
49 Delaware 48,992 5.25% $0
50 Rhode Island 2,313 0.21% $21,739,183
District of Columbia 9,387 1.5% $17,457,764
Puerto Rico 2,110,534 57.19% $38,613,544

It’s important to note that as of this writing 41% of the US population has access to fixed wireless broadband. While this and other wireless technologies have their benefits and drawbacks when compared to Cable, DSL, and Fiber Optics, it may not be economical for rural customers to have access to multiple wired providers due to large infrastructure costs and the economies of scale required to support those costs.

2 Comments, Add Yours Below.

Your citation of VZ DSL in my central MA region as going to 15mbps is just WRONG. $29.99 gets you a reported 3mbps and a real-life 1.5mbps. On a good day. And there are waiting lists for this service as there are not a sufficient number of circuits to meet demand.

The state built a backbone and middle mile with the most recent federal funds. Nothing yet for FTTH. Earlier funds were disbursed so parsimoniously that it barely made a dent. The state has authorized $40M for broadband help for unserved towns which if fully dedicated to building out these towns, would cover only 1/3 the cost. The state is ‘studying’ how to allocate the funds.

The problem is that it is expensive to build an aerial network in the quasi-rural areas in MA for whom ‘Big Cable’ has no interest. One town suggested that it would take an extra $460/year, a forty percent tax increase, on a median home valued at $200k to borrow to provide for a local broadband network above the full state assistance.. That is in addition to the $120/month for VOIP and internet service(no TV). This is exceptionally expensive for folks in small town MA.

As a citizen of one of these towns trying to enter the 21st century, with a service that most of the rest of country takes for granted, there is exactly one hurdle: COST. We could use fewer ‘studies’ and ‘programs’ that take energy but never seem to produce anything but talk. Estimates to totally build out all of unserved central MA with a fiber network approach $125M. It would seem a drop in the bucket of state or federal budgets. But less than a third of that has been authorized but not released. Estimates also indicate that it would only take $150B to ‘wire’ out the remaining parts of the country. Would this not be a great infrastructure project?

Could we not have the 21st century internet version of the Rural Electrification Act? Could we not have it happen before the middle of this century?

The numbers for Washington seem like they must be off by quite a bit. In most parts of Seattle the option is Comcast for true broadband. Century Link is in a lot of places but as far as I can tell, they don’t offer broadband speeds in most locations. Only a few places truly have choice.

Most apartment buildings choose single cable provider so I would argue that in areas where both Comcast and Wave (formerly Boradstripe) are available, a lot of folks only have the choice of one of those.

The data also seems to leave out some Seattle providers like CondoInternet which improves the numbers a bit but I sill think that anything in the 90s for Washington is too high.

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