A View from David Talbot
One in Five Americans Still Lack Any Broadband Access
Smartphones boost “broadband” coverage, but gaps remain that could be served by TV spectrum and other technologies.
Even though more than half of Americans own smartphones, a significant gap in broadband access persists in the United States, according to a new survey released today by the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project. The survey says 70 percent of American adults have broadband access in their homes, and a large proportion of those also have smartphones. An additional 10 percent of Americans get Internet access from smartphones alone.
Yet with one in five Americans still lacking broadband, there’s still a large deficit to be addressed. This can be done relatively inexpensively through a few approaches, including repurposing television spectrum, often called “Super Wi-Fi” (see “TV Airwaves Fill the Broadband Gaps”); harnessing new software-defined radios to make clever use of unlicensed spectrum (see “4G on the Baby Monitor Frequency”); sharing spectrum now controlled by the military, an idea now being tested with the U.S. Navy (see “Military Considers Sharing Radar Frequencies with Wireless Networks”); or even using balloons circling the planet to beam down Internet coverage, as Google has proposed to some skepticism (see “African Entrepreneurs Deflate Google’s Balloon Idea”). The new report makes clear the stakes involved in these efforts.