FCC admits its broadband map is wrong: New figures reveal 21.3 million lack high-speed access

  • FCC revises official map to estimate 21.3 million lack broadband access
  • Updated figure is still significantly lower than Microsoft’s independent research
  • Despite billions in grants, broadband access still lacking in rural areas

After Microsoft revealed research last week stating 162.8 million people don’t have access to broadband speeds — a figure 8.5x higher than the Federal Communication Commission’s reported 19.1 million — the FCC claims it has fixed the error on exaggerated numbers.

Chairman Ajit Pai issued a “revised” press release today stating that the number of Americans lacking access to broadband speeds is actually 21.3 million as of the end of 2017, not 19.1 million.

However, the new figure is still dramatically lower than Microsoft’s estimate of 162 million.

Pai claims that while their initial numbers were erroneous, it still shows a significant improvement over the 26.1 million Americans lacking access to broadband speeds at the end of 2016.

“We’re pleased that the FCC’s policy of making deployment data open and transparent to the public resulted in this error being discovered. Fortunately, the new data doesn’t change the report’s fundamental conclusion: we are closing the digital divide, which means we’re delivering on the FCC’s top priority,” he said in the press release.

The advocacy group Free Press submitted a filing with the FCC in early March stating that Pai was “taking unearned credit for broadband development trends that began long before his tenure” and was relying on erroneous data.

According to the FCC, though, the revision of numbers comes after a “thorough review of the initial draft triggered by the discovery that a company submitted drastically overstated deployment data to the FCC.”

The FCC defines broadband as speeds of at least 25 Mbps download and 3 Mbps upload. Areas lacking these speeds are typically rural parts of the country, which is where the FCC said they’ve seen the most gains. However, Microsoft found that may not be the case.

More than $22 billion in subsidies and grants to carriers “to sustain, extend and improve broadband in rural America” have been approved in the past five years, but adoption has “barely budged,” according to the Microsoft report.

For instance, in Microsoft’s headquarters state of Washington, FCC data indicates that broadband speeds are available to 100% of Ferry County residents. The Microsoft data shows that only 2% of Ferry County residents are using broadband speeds.