Access to the Internet provides great opportunities for development and growth for the individuals and communities that it connects. However, even in the U.S., we still have regions and communities that have either no or limited access to broadband. Establishing best practices to expand digital inclusion through broadband access and adoption in rural, remote, Indigenous and other underserved communities across the country.
The benefits of the Internet are well understood and recognized, but rural areas continue to remain unconnected, because laying fiber optic cable to these regions is not considered profitable. Recognizing this problem, the FCC spent $7.2 billion on expanding broadband access to rural communities between 2009 and 2015. Despite this initiative, 53% of rural U.S. citizens lack access to the recommended 25 mbps/3 mbps service. The numbers are even worse for Indigenous communities, where 63% of U.S. citizens on Tribal lands and 85% of people living on rural Tribal lands lack access to the a connection with recommended speeds.
While more people are connected every year, the rate at which they are connecting is not good enough. While we struggle to connect our underserved communities, it is important to take stock of our successful initiatives and identify the best practices that can improve access in a scalable and sustainable way. There have been successful projects like TERRA in Alaska that could provide an example for the rest of the country.
Finding solutions to the access issue and related issues like digital literacy will require collective efforts of public and private investment and innovation. Join us at IGF-USA 2016 as we discuss how to connect the rest of the U.S.