Sign up for our daily briefing

Make your busy days simpler with Axios AM/PM. Catch up on what's new and why it matters in just 5 minutes.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Catch up on the day's biggest business stories

Subscribe to Axios Closer for insights into the day’s business news and trends and why they matter

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Stay on top of the latest market trends

Subscribe to Axios Markets for the latest market trends and economic insights. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Sports news worthy of your time

Binge on the stats and stories that drive the sports world with Axios Sports. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Tech news worthy of your time

Get our smart take on technology from the Valley and D.C. with Axios Login. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Get the inside stories

Get an insider's guide to the new White House with Axios Sneak Peek. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Denver news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Denver

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Des Moines news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Des Moines

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Twin Cities news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Twin Cities

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Tampa Bay news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Tampa Bay

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Charlotte news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Charlotte

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Sign up for Axios NW Arkansas

Stay up-to-date on the most important and interesting stories affecting NW Arkansas, authored by local reporters

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!
Expand chart
Data: FCC; Note: Non-mobile broadband speeds are 25 Mbps download/3 Mbps upload, Mobile LTE are 10 Mbps/3 Mbps; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

Broadband technologies are getting better and faster — but access to them is still concentrated in metro areas and suburbs, leaving vast swaths of the country with marginal service or nothing at all.

Why it matters: Benefits of the broadband advances are mostly going to consumers who already have plenty of options for robust internet connections. Despite efforts to narrow the digital divide, rural areas, small towns and low-income neighborhoods in big cities still struggle to have access to reliable and affordable broadband service.

Driving the news: The Federal Communications Commission last week voted to require broadband service providers to report more detailed data about where their networks are available after criticism that the agency's data overstates broadband access. The agency also proposed directing $20 billion over 10 years to fund network expansion in unserved places.

Last week, Verizon announced that 5G is now available in parts of four additional cities — Washington, D.C., Atlanta, Detroit and Indianapolis — and says it plans to have 5G service in more than 30 cities by the end of the year. However, its new service in some cities like Chicago has been spotty and limited. (Here's a rundown of the rollouts.)

  • AT&T has expanded its 5G access to 20 cities since launching in December of last year.  It’s now focused on acquiring more “mid-band” wireless spectrum to bring 5G to less populated areas. To date, most of its efforts are concentrated in cities and focus on servicing businesses. 

T-Mobile and Sprint, who pitched their merger as a way to help narrow the urban-rural digital divide, now have regulator approval for the deal under the condition that the companies unload assets to Dish to create a fourth national wireless carrier.

  • FCC regulators told reporters last week that the two companies could face billions in penalties if they don’t commit to using their combined spectrum, including a lot of coveted “mid-band” spectrum, to meet build-out requirements for rural populations. 
  • Yes, but: State AGs have sued to block the deal, and there's skepticism about Dish's execution of that plan.

The big picture: Even though many rural households may have the ability to connect to the internet, consumers with low download speeds won't be able to participate in the online economy by video chatting, streaming video or telecommuting.

  • Demand for mobile services is exploding: Gig economy workers, such as Uber and Lyft drivers or those who make deliveries for InstaCart and DoorDash, rely on smartphone connections to schedule jobs and find routes.
  • Lower-income families are more likely to rely on smartphones for internet access.

Between the lines: 5G networks using the highest-speed airwaves won't reach rural areas for years because the signals can't travel very far.

The subsidies proposed by the FCC will be open to companies like small community providers, co-ops and locally run wireless providers who serve rural areas where the national carriers won't build.

  • $20 billion is a good start, but "it's still going to be tough to get coverage everywhere," said Shirley Bloomfield, CEO of NTCA, which represents rural, community internet providers.

What to watch: New advanced technologies are aiming to fill the gaps left by traditional telecom providers.

  • SpaceX and OneWeb are launching constellations of satellites to beam broadband down to earth.
  • A startup called UbiquitiLink is testing the first "cell towers in space" to provide satellite-powered internet service directly to consumers' cellphones in rural areas.
  • The catch: Signals from space have to travel a long way, so the connection is slower than earth-bound internet options. But in unserved places, it's better than nothing.

The bottom line: There's significant overlap between the parts of the country that have been left behind economically over the past decade and those that are broadband deserts.

What's next: Expect rural broadband to be a become a talking point on the presidential campaign trail in the coming year.

Go deeper:

Go deeper

Mike Allen, author of AM
2 mins ago - Energy & Environment

Laurene Powell Jobs' $3.5 billion climate campaign

Laurene Powell Jobs in Washington in 2019. Photo: Nicholas Kamm/AFP via Getty Images

Laurene Powell Jobs, president of Emerson Collective, is investing $3.5 billion in her new climate-action group, the Waverley Street Foundation — all to be spent in 10 years, as a way to show urgency on the issue.

  • Then the group will sunset.

The big picture: The foundation "will focus on initiatives and ideas that will aid underserved communities who are most impacted by climate change," an official tells Axios.

German elections: After close result, jockeying to replace Merkel begins

Data: Preliminary results from German Federal Returning Officer; Chart: Sara Wise/Axios

Germany’s Social Democrats (SPD) pulled off a come-from-behind victory in Sunday’s elections, 10 seats ahead of the Christian Democrats (CDU), which failed to finish top for the first time in 16 years.

State of play: SPD leader Olaf Scholz has said he’ll seek to form a government, but so too has Armin Laschet, Chancellor Angela Merkel’s successor as CDU leader.

3 hours ago - Health

Biden gets COVID-19 booster shot on live television

President Biden received a Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine booster shot on live television on Monday, while also urging Americans to get vaccinated.

Driving the news: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention last week recommended Pfizer booster shots for millions of people, including those 65 years and older and individuals at high-risk of severe COVID-19.