12 Feb What is Local Coverage Today?
The FCC claims that our region is 99% covered for broadband services and 99% covered for mobile telephone services. Anyone living here would choke at the very idea. Provided with funds from a Connecticut state grant, we commissioned a study of our region to ascertain within some reasonable level of accuracy the actual coverage here. The study used billing records from incumbent carriers (organized by zip code, not by customer), geographical mapping, and Google records to construct a more representative profile. The report showed variations from one town to another, but the average broadband coverage is 65%, not 99%, and the average mobile coverage is 75%, not 99%. This means that more than 26,000 homes in our region do not have broadband today, 19,000 homes have no mobile service, and 545 miles of our road system do not have mobile coverage. Pick your accident sites carefully.
As Roberta Willis observes in her note above, these gaps are not going to be filled by incumbent carriers; they are only going to be filled by a network with community support and funding. As she also notes, we are at a stage as a country, as a world even, that requires universal broadband access. Universal broadband will be an anchor service to attract young people back to our region, eliminate the digital divide in education, and prepare ourselves for aging in the modern world of telemedicine.