Is the ‘digital divide’ narrowing for you?
By Sara Wyant
As our summer travel season ramps up, we’ll be driving or flying to at least 10 different states, including Alaska. One of my biggest concerns is the ability to stay connected—either by finding cell phone service or connecting to my home and office via high-speed broadband.
My expectations aren’t too high for our trip to Alaska, but I was shocked when I drove into my hometown in Iowa recently and my cell coverage dropped off. If you have AT&T cell service, you can’t make a call in the heart of Marengo, a county seat with a population of about 2,500 people. It’s the same situation in my husband’s hometown of Carson, North Dakota, the county seat of Grant County, with a population of about 250 residents.
But the good news is that some homeowners, including our family members, have been able to connect to high-speed broadband with fiber rolled out from these towns to their farms. And if you know the right folks and turn on wi-fi calling, you can get connected again.
In its annual 2019 Broadband Deployment Report , required by Congress, the Federal Communications Commission had some relatively good news to share regarding the ability to connect to high-speed broadband, including the following:
The number of Americans lacking access to a terrestrial fixed broadband connection meeting the FCC’s benchmark of at least 25 megabits per second/3 megabits per second has dropped from 26.1 million Americans at the end of 2016 to 21.3 million Americans at the end of 2017, a decrease of more than 18 percent.
The majority of those gaining access to such connections, approximately 4.3 million, are in rural America.
Higher-speed services are being deployed at a rapid rate as well: The number of Americans with access to at least 250 megabits per second/25 megabits per second broadband grew in 2017 by more than 36
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