The National Association of Counties (NACo) released a report on its TestIT app, which found that over half of U.S.’ counties are experiencing the Federal minimum of broadband standards.
The mobile app was created to encourage citizens to provide data on “how they experience cellular and broadband internet every day.”
“Over the past year, TestIT users from across the country have helped paint a clearer picture of connectivity in America,” the report said. “Through the app, we discovered that over half of our nation’s counties — on average — are experiencing internet speeds below 25 megabytes per second (mbps) which is the Federal definition of minimum broadband standards.”
The report also found discrepancies in between the maximum advertised speeds and the true levels of internet service that users had. According to the report, 65 percent of counties experience service levels below the levels at which industry reported.
NACo attributed this in part to the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) Form 477 process and that FCC connectivity data is often inaccurate and inflated. FCC requires that service providers report areas where they are “currently providing or could” provide connectivity.
“By requiring providers to report on the speculation of maximum service — even if no one is currently connected — leads to overstated data as an unintended consequence,” the report said. “Anecdotal evidence suggests an entire census block is often marked as ‘served’ with broadband if just one home has coverage. As a result, the FCC routinely classifies these markets connected and competitive when reality tells a very different story.”
NACo says that to prevent the digital divide from growing larger, changes to the data collection process must be implemented, local barriers should be removed, and broadband must be reclassified as a utility that is “no less important than water and electricity.”