Microsoft says the rural broadband divide is worse than you think

Politicians and regulators like to say they’re increasing access to broadband in rural areas, but the reality might be far less rosy. Microsoft has conducted a study showing that far fewer Americans have broadband access than FCC data suggests. While the FCC is currently focused on availability and notes that 24.7 million people can’t get fast internet service, Microsoft determined that 162.8 million people don’t use broadband service, 19 million of them in rural areas. The gaps are sometimes glaring. In Washington’s Ferry County, only 2 percent of people have broadband where the FCC claims it’s available to the entire region.

Why the mismatch? It’s due in part to flawed data gathering methods. The FCC leans on surveys that will declare a region completely covered if just a handful of people have broadband. Microsoft, meanwhile, has tracked the speeds of those using its services, whether it’s downloading Windows updates, searching Bing or playing on Xbox Live. This provides a much more accurate representation of broadband use, Microsoft said.

The company also concluded that employment plays a large factor in adoption. Simply speaking, regions with high unemployment rates tend to have fewer broadband users — they just can’t afford it.

Read the full article @ Engadget

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