Microsoft study: Almost half of Americans lack access to broadband Internet

Broadband Internet access is much lower than the FCC data shows, a new study by Microsoft reveals. The FCC estimates that about 25 million Americans do not have access to Internet at broadband speeds. But a new Microsoft study puts the number at 163 million -- almost half the population of the United States.

Part of the problem is that the FCC’s measurement of broadband access overestimates coverage. By the FCC’s measurement, if one subscriber in an area has broadband service, the entire area is considered covered. For example, FCC data shows 100 percent broadband access in Ferry County, WA, while Microsoft estimates coverage at 2 percent.

An accurate measure of broadband access is of particular concern to rural areas. Last week, Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) submitted a formal challenge to the FCC, arguing that the FCC’s broadband map does not accurately show coverage in West Virginia, which, as a result, precludes many parts of the state from access to federal funds to close the digital divide.

“I’ll give you one town: Weston, West Virginia,” Sen. Manchin said. “Right in the middle of the state. We tested 36 sites. Out of 36 sites, 29 failed completely. Zero. No coverage.”


Digital Divide Is Wider Than We Think, Study Says (New York Times, Dec. 4, 2018)

Manchin submits challenge to FCC broadband map (West Virginia MetroNews, Nov. 27, 2018)