February 2, 2018

Section 706 of the Telecommunications Act of 1996 requires the Federal Communications Commission to report annually on whether advanced telecommunications capability “is being deployed to all Americans in a reasonable and timely fashion,” and to take “immediate action” if it is not.

Congress defined advanced telecommunications capability as “high-quality” capability that allow users to “originate and receive high-quality voice, data, graphics, and video” services. The 2018 Broadband Deployment Report continues the practice of recent past reports of examining fixed and mobile broadband deployment, and finds both fixed and mobile services to be capable of meeting the statutory definition of advanced telecommunications capability. The report also continues to conclude that mobile services are not currently full substitutes for fixed services. The FCC retains the existing speed benchmark of 25 Mbps download/3 Mbps upload (25 Mbps/3 Mbps) for fixed services and examines the deployment of mobile services with minimum advertised speeds of 5 Mbps/1 Mbps, and those with a median speed of 10 Mbps/3 Mbps or higher.

Key findings from the Report include the following:

  • In the wake of the 2015 Title II Order, the deployment of advanced telecommunications capability slowed dramatically.
  • From 2012 to 2014, the two years preceding the Title II Order, fixed terrestrial broadband Internet access was deployed to 29.9 million people who never had it before, including 1 million people on Tribal lands.
    • But in the following two years, after the Title II Order was adopted, new deployments dropped 55 percent, reaching only 13.5 million people, including only 330,000 people on Tribal lands.
  • From 2012 to 2014, mobile LTE broadband was newly deployed to 34.2 million people, including 21.5 million rural Americans.
    • But in the following two years, new mobile deployments dropped 83 percent, reaching only 5.8 million more Americans, including only 2.3 million more rural Americans.
  • And from 2012 to 2014, the number of Americans without access to both fixed terrestrial broadband and mobile broadband fell by more than half—from 72.1 million to 34.5 million.
    • But the pace was nearly three times slower after the adoption of the 2015 Title II Order, with only 13.9 million Americans newly getting access to both over the next two years.
  • As of year-end 2016, 92.3% of all Americans have access to fixed terrestrial broadband at speeds of 25 Mbps/3 Mbps, up from 89.4% in 2014 and 81.2% in 2012. Nonetheless, over 24 million Americans still lack fixed terrestrial broadband at speeds of 25 Mbps/3 Mbps.
  • Rural and Tribal areas continue to lag behind urban areas in mobile broadband deployment. Although evaluated urban areas saw an increase of 10 Mbps/3 Mbps mobile LTE from 81.9% in 2014 to 90.5 % in 2016, such deployment in evaluated rural and Tribal areas remained flat at about 70% and 64%, respectively. Approximately 14 million rural Americans and 1.2 million Americans living on Tribal lands still lack mobile LTE broadband at speeds of 10 Mbps/3 Mbps.
  • Approximately 92% of the population has access to both fixed terrestrial services at 25 Mbps/3 Mbps and mobile LTE at speeds of 5 Mbps/1 Mbps. In rural areas, 68.6% of Americans have access to both services, as opposed to 97.9% of Americans in urban areas. With respect to fixed 25 Mbps/3 Mbps and 10 Mbps/3 Mbps LTE services, 85.3% of all Americans have access to such services, including 61% in evaluated rural areas and 89.8% in evaluated urban areas.
  • Approximately 98.1% of the country has access to either fixed terrestrial service at 25 Mbps/3 Mbps or mobile LTE at 10 Mbps/3 Mbps, with that number dropping to 89.7% in rural areas.
  • Examining the deployment of fixed terrestrial services at variable speed tiers, the Report finds that fixed terrestrial service of 10 Mbps/1 Mbps is available to 96% of all Americans. Fixed terrestrial 25 Mbps/3 Mbps service is available to 92.3% of the population overall, and fixed terrestrial 50 Mbps/5 Mbps service is available to 90.8% of the population. Deployment in rural areas and Tribal lands lags behind that or urban areas at all three speeds.
  • Americans with access to both fixed terrestrial 25 Mbps/3 Mbps service and mobile LTE with a minimum advertised speed of 5 Mbps/1 Mbps typically live in census block groups with a lower percentage of households living in poverty, and with higher average populations, population densities, per capita incomes, and median household incomes than Americans living in areas without access to these services.
  • The U.S. ranked 10th out of 28 countries for download speed, 7th out of 29 for fixed broadband price (using the fixed hedonic price index), and 10th out of 29 for mobile broadband price (again, using the fixed hedonic price index).
  • 88% of American schools meet the FCC’s short-term connectivity goal of 100 Mbps per 1,000 users. Further, 22% of school districts meet our long-term connectivity goal of 1 Gbps per 1,000 users.

Although the deployment of broadband services slowed dramatically in the wake of the 2015 Title II Order, the Commission has taken many actions to accelerate deployment, including removing barriers to infrastructure investment, promoting competition in the telecommunications market, and by restoring the longstanding bipartisan light-touch regulatory framework for broadband Internet access services. Thanks to these efforts, the Report concludes that broadband services are now being deployed to all Americans on a reasonable and timely basis.

Nonetheless, closing the digital divide and furthering the deployment of advanced telecommunications capabilities remains the top priority for the FCC and the Report concludes there is much work still to be done.

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Date Last Updated or Reviewed: 
Mon, 02/05/2018