What begins as a technological innovation often becomes an indispensable means of mass communication. The 19th century’s breakthrough was the telegraph, followed by the telephone and radio. And in the 20th century came the television. Today, that technology is broadband: reliable, high-speed internet service.
The internet serves as the gateway to information that helps Americans navigate everything from job opportunities and medical assistance to news and weather updates. Yet, according to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), some 24 million Americans lack access to reliable, high-speed broadband and, as a result, to vital information that affects their lives and connections to family and friends. And it’s not just individuals who are affected: As recently as 2016, the FCC found that about 40 percent of the nation’s schools lacked adequate broadband service. In addition, a 2014 study published in the Journal of Rural Health found that almost 60 percent of health care facilities outside of metropolitan areas did not have sufficient service.
Why has achieving the “last mile” of high-speed connection—the link to homes, schools, hospitals, and other end users—proved so difficult in some areas? To answer this question, we need better information on where connections are lacking, a clearer understanding of the innovative ideas that are being tested at the state level to reach these areas, and a fuller understanding of the array of funding and financing options for expansion.
Read the full article on The Hill.