In its effort to make rural broadband more accessible, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has announced it will offer $67 million in funding to 207 rural carriers. The offer is available through the Connect America Fund rural broadband subsidy plan.
To access some of the funds, rural carriers must “significantly expand” access to internet service with download and upload speeds of at least 25Mbps and 3Mbps, respectively. According to the FCC, its $67 million offer could expand high-speed broadband service to up to 110,000 homes across 43 states in the U.S.
Rural carriers have 30 days to decide if they want to accept the offer.
Whether things will go the FCC’s way, we don’t know. $67 million is a drop in the bucket compared to the roughly $1.5 billion offered after the Connect America Fund Phase II “reverse auction.” The auction brought broadband service to over 700,000 homes and businesses.
A more glaring roadblock is the seemingly slow rollout of rural broadband. According to a study by Microsoft researchers, 19 million of the 162.8 million people that don’t use broadband service live in rural areas. In Washington’s Ferry County, for example, only two percent of residents have broadband.
In the study, Microsoft also concluded that employment is an important factor in whether someone has broadband or not. Areas with high unemployment rates usually have fewer broadband users for the simple reason that people can’t afford it.
Compounding matters is FCC commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel, who spoke out on Twitter against the FCC’s claim that broadband deployment across the country is “reasonable and timely.” According to Rosenworcel, “millions of households” in rural and urban settings lack access to high-speed broadband.