Ag Policy Blog

Report: Rural Broadband Access Poorer Than FCC Data Shows

Jerry Hagstrom
By  Jerry Hagstrom , DTN Political Correspondent
The number of Americans without broadband internet is double than what the FCC has projected, according to a new report. Rural broadband investment is needed for farmers to use the data tools that come with today's high-tech equipment. (DTN file photo)

The number of Americans without Internet service is 42 million, which is double the Federal Communications Commission’s estimate of 21.3 million, according to a report issued by BroadbandNow Research.

And the problem is worse in rural America than the FCC has said, according to the report.

The discrepancy occurs because the FCC relies on semi-annual self-reporting by Internet service providers (ISPs) using the FCC-mandated “Form 477,” BroadbandNow Research said. If an ISP offers service to at least one household in a census block, then the FCC counts the entire census block as covered by that provider. BroadbandNow Research said it examined the magnitude of this flaw by manually checking Internet availability using FCC data as the source of truth for randomly selected addresses.

“Unfortunately, as with many of the issues surrounding the digital divide, FCC over-reporting disproportionately impacts rural communities,” BroadbandNow Research said. “As an example, in South Carolina, where 50% of residents live in an urban area, unserved addresses are 30% higher than FCC estimates. Compare that to Arizona, where 90% of residents live in an urban area and unserved addresses are 11% higher.”

BroadbandNow Research said it “believes that provider reporting on address-level availability is the best and most transparent way to understand and quantify the digital divide. We also believe that FCC reporting should be more timely (FCC Form 477 data is typically made public 12-18 months after ISPs self-report).”

The study was first reported by Vice.

-BroadbandNow Research – “FCC reports broadband unavailable to 21.3 million Americans, BroadbandNow study indicates 42 million do not have access”…

-Vice – “US broadband gaps are twice as bad as the government claims”…

-FCC – 2019 Broadband Deployment Report…

Jerry Hagstrom can be reached at

Follow him on Twitter @hagstromreport



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