Will every U.S. address have internet access by 2030?

Robin Layton

May 22, 2024 — 5 min read

Federal plan "Internet for All" sets a high bar for delivering fast internet across the country.

Kids watches tablet on lawn.

As states and U.S. territories receive federal funding to close the digital divide, roadblocks appear in the quest to achieve 100% fast fiber internet connectivity.

The federal government’s goal is Internet for All by 2030. Even though that sounds like a long way off, it’s really just six years, which may not be enough time for states to complete all the necessary work – especially when they also struggle coming up with their share of funding. 

Ideally, fiber is the choice as it’s the fastest available internet connection type but also the most expensive. Internet for All calls for “high speed” internet for all addresses, but that might not equal to fiber in every home.

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) defines broadband internet as 100 Mbps in download speed and acknowledges that we’re not closing the country’s digital divide fast enough. Studies show that about 9% of U.S. households are not connected to the internet, either due to affordability or accessibility.

What is Internet for All?

The Internet for All by 2030 initiative was developed by the federal government to get high-speed internet to every address in the U.S. The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law provides $65 billion to connect every household to affordable, reliable high-speed internet. The funds support existing programs that expand internet access.

Four agencies leading the effort are the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), the FCC, the Department of the Treasury and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).

Each state’s plans for getting broadband service to those locations must be approved by the overseeing organization, the NTIA.

Federal programs for broadband funding

The programs below provide billions of dollars for “infrastructure deployment, skills training and access to technologies essential for Americans” to connect to the internet, leading to “Internet for All.”

Cost of internet connectivity

Expanding the internet through a fiber network will definitely provide the fastest available internet speed to customers, but it’s not financially viable for many states or internet service providers.

According to Nextlink, “the cost to deploy FWA (fixed wireless) is about $1,000 per subscriber compared to fiber, which can cost anywhere from $5,000 to $20,000 per passing.”

Nextlink is a Wireless Internet Service Provider (WISP) that uses a combination of cable/fiber and radio transmitters to receive and relay internet services from transport providers to the towers within its wireless network.

Matt Davis, Founder and Principal Analyst at Independence Research, feels 100% fiber connectivity is optimistic by 2030, as he told us in our report on rural vs. city internet access. The broadband expert projects fiber availability to remain under 90%, with satellite and 5G making up the gaps in service.

Expanding internet connectivity

The long undertaking of building out the internet network presents many challenges, mostly at the state level. Several sections of the “internet highway” must be in place before the internet reaches anyone. 

The first mile connects the user to the ISP, the middle mile carries data between local and regional networks, and the last mile connects the end-user to the broader internet network. The last mile is delivered via satellite, fixed wireless, aerial or buried cabling for fiber/coax. 

To complicate basic understanding of the process, the broadband industry often reverses “first” and “last” to show the process from its perspective. The first mile in industry language is sometimes the final segment of the network that connects the broader internet infrastructure to the customer’s location.

As Calmatters.org shared, “’If fiber optic cables that power internet connectivity were like nerves in your body, middle mile broadband is like the spinal column that acts as a central bundle of nerves while the last mile is like the nerves in your fingers or tips of your toes,’ said Alexandra Green, an attorney for The Utility Reform Network.”

“The Middle Mile Program provided nearly $1 billion to expand middle mile Internet infrastructure and reduce the cost of connecting unserved and underserved areas,” NTIA’s annual report stated.  

“The Middle Mile program is key to increasing the resilience of Internet infrastructure in the United States by promoting the creation of alternate network connection paths designed to prevent single point broadband network failures. All projects use future-proof fiber as the primary technology.”

Long-haul internet networks

Long-haul networks are the arteries of the internet, connecting large cities with fiber optics and transmitting massive volumes of voice, video and data communications,” according to Fujitsu.

The networks comprise fiber optic and/or submarine (underwater) cables. “They form the backbone of the internet, connecting various regions and allowing for global communication and data exchange.”

Internet connectivity by state

The NTIA site keeps updates on how many households have access to an internet-capable device, how many do not use the internet, have no internet access or devices and the percentage of which ones are using a internet-capable device. 

Check to see your state’s current connectivity by household:

California hits financial roadblock

As states submit plans to the federal government for spending federal broadband funds, their own funding can hit a wall when faced with budget shortfalls, which means their state-level broadband plans can be delayed.

This month, news broke that California’s robust internet-for-all plan hit just such a financial roadblock, derailing the governor’s promise to close the digital divide in the state. 

Gov. Gavin Newsom’s newest budget proposal calls for $2 billion in cuts to public broadband projects, which are meant to bring high-speed internet to all California residents.  

A summer 2023 survey compiled by the California Department of Technology found that “91% of Californians have internet access at home, up from 88% in 2019, but closing the gap remains a challenge.”

“People with disabilities, who identify as Black or Hispanic, who live in rural communities, or who have a high school degree or lower level of education are generally less likely to have high-speed home internet access. Respondents cite affordability as the main reason they don’t have high-speed internet at home.”

Fast internet for all by 2030?

It’s doubtful that the country will achieve 100% fiber connectivity in six more years. Fiber is pricey, the work is intensive and slow with awaiting plan approvals, etc., and plans can be thwarted by state-level budget issues.

Meanwhile, providers are expanding their networks of cable/fiber hybrids and 5G home internet/fixed wireless connections. Satellite is always an option, and some areas are still connected by DSL. Although some of these options aren’t considered “fast” internet, they do provide connection speeds that will keep families online.

Find more broadband news and studies on trends in the industry on Allconnect’s news hub and research hub.

Robin Layton

Written by:

Robin Layton

Editor, Broadband Content

Robin Layton is an editor for the broadband marketplace Allconnect. She built her internet industry expertise writing and editing for four years on the site, as well as on Allconnect’s sister site MYMOVE.com. … Read more