Apr 24, 2020 - Technology

FCC says digital divide is narrowing

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

The Federal Communications Commission said the number of Americans with access to high-speed internet service has grown since 2017, according to a report Friday.

The big picture: The coronavirus pandemic has put in sharper focus the toll of the digital divide — the gap between those who have broadband internet and those who do not.

By the numbers: The FCC's annual Broadband Deployment Report finds that 18 million Americans, roughly 5.6 percent of the population, lacked access to broadband, according to 2018 data. (That was the most recent full year for which the agency had figures.)

  • That's down from the 21 million the FCC found lacked access in its previous report.
  • FCC Chairman Ajit Pai touted his "deep commitment to expanding broadband to all corners of the country" in a statement.
  • "That’s why we’ve taken aggressive steps to remove regulatory barriers to broadband deployment and reform our Universal Service Fund programs," he said.

Yes, but: As Democratic Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel pointed out in her dissent, the FCC's method for collecting broadband data can overstate service.

  • "This report is baffling," Rosenworcel said in a statement. "We are in the middle of a pandemic. So much of modern life has migrated online. As a result, it has become painfully clear there are too many people in the United States who lack access to broadband."

Go deeper

Unpacking a surprise jobs report

Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios

Can we trust this morning's surprisingly good employment report?

  • The short answer: Yes.

The emergency era of environmental policy

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Welcome to the crisis era of energy and environmental policymaking.

Driving the news: A new White House executive order, citing COVID-19, invokes emergency powers to accelerate and even waive some environmental reviews of infrastructure and energy projects.

HBCUs are missing from the discussion on venture capital's diversity

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

Venture capital is beginning a belated conversation about its dearth of black investors and support of black founders, but hasn't yet turned its attention to the trivial participation of historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) as limited partners in funds.

Why it matters: This increases educational and economic inequality, as the vast majority of VC profits go to limited partners.