Improved broadband access is coming to new service areas in the U.S., according to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). Twenty-three service providers will help provide high-speed Internet to over one million new districts across 32 states. It is a $1.2 billion effort through the Rural Digital Opportunity fund. This is one of the biggest expansions in recent history.
On top of this, the updated Rural Broadband Accountability Plan (RBAP) by the FCC will increase the number of areas compared to last year. That increase will be twofold. It will require the FCC to make all results of audits, verifications, and tests public knowledge across the USAC web presence, creating an unprecedented level of accountability.
The chairwoman of the FCC, Jessica Rosenworcel, said on Twitter recently “The new RBAP will streamline our audit and verification processes while also making the results of verifications, audits, and latency testing publicly available for the first time. These safeguards will ensure that program leaders do their jobs.”
Known as the digital divide, the disparity in access and coverage of broadband internet has only been highlighted by the pandemic. With remote work becoming the standard and kids transitioning to distance learning, those in less-connected areas feel the challenges slow internet speeds can bring. The recently proposed infrastructure assistance can also help remedy these gaps, but will it all come soon enough? An additional $65 billion is promising high-speed access for every household in America, but a timeline wasn’t promised yet on when that will happen.
Beyond availability, the other question is cost. The FCC has a new program to will provide cheaper Internet to those in need. That is supposed to go into effect later in 2022.
The more interesting side story to this is how private organizations are also trying to help increase connections across our country, and even the world. Some leading aerospace giants have already begun blasting satellites into space to improve surfing speeds in less fortunate areas. While it may add to the clutter of “space junk” over time, in the short-term it could be just the boost some need.