A compilation of my recent broadband work and broadband maps!

Because I have so much work in broadband, I thought a compilation might be helpful.

A couple of months back, I finished an estimation of the real extent of broadband availability in the US using data from Georgia. It is driven by an economic model I developed. The FCC’s data suggests that 97.5% of households have broadband access. My models suggest the real number is probably between 89.9% and 92.5%.

Below is a map of that model.

Many people think the Internet is similar to electricity and so they apply the ideas from that domain to the Internet. But critically, the Internet is not like electricity because it hasn’t driven up productivity like electricity did. In the technical language, the Internet is not a general purpose technology (GPT) while electricity is. More details here.

On my personal blog, I spent some time wondering if cost is stopping people from getting online. Here is the nutgraf: “COVID acted as a massive demand shock. Kids and adults were sent home to study and work, so they had to use the Internet. But the days of just being online for class or work are over. A new equilibrium has emerged, a hybrid system. In reaction, the demand shock has subsided and growth rates dropped to pre-pandemic levels.”

Included within the infrastructure bill was $65 billion dedicated to broadband. Some of the $65 billion will go to pay for Internet in low-income households. The vast majority of it, some $42.45 billion, is headed to the states for broadband projects. Where exactly is that money going? This piece estimates how much will each state receive in broadband funding from the $1T infrastructure bill.

In 2020, Congress set aside $3.14 billion to help low-income households pay for broadband service and connected Internet devices through the Emergency Broadband Benefit (EBB) Program. To understand this program, I released a progress report on the Emergency Broadband Benefit program as well as a county-level dataset for researchers and leaders alike that will help everyone better understand the EBB program. As many had hoped, our analysis of these enrollments suggests they are going towards low income communities. See also my Exformation Newsletter on the topic.

In the run-up to the infrastructure bill passing, I did a deep dive into the proposed broadband infrastructure bills. I then followed it up with a long read on the digital divide, digital equity, and the nature of the problem. This post diagnoses the two categories of problem inherent in the digital divide. As policymakers consider measures to bridge these divides, it is essential to know that, unconnected individuals typically have low educational attainment, low income, are elderly or are disabled. Just as important, two-thirds of those not connected say that lack of interest is the primary reason for being offline.

The further you go out into rural areas in the United States, the more costly it becomes to provide Internet service. I spent most of my summer in rural Illinois and I tried to bring that experience to understand the rural broadband penalty.

Last but not least, I have been collecting estimates of broadband deployment costs. I hope to do more with that data in the future.

To fill in the gaps where official data isn’t available, I’ve made a series of maps on broadband:

Dependent variable:
Served Percent
Note:*p<0.1; \*\*p<0.05; \*\**p<0.01

First published Jul 25, 2022