Study says FCC Underestimates Number of Americans without Internet

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A report issued by BroadbandNow Research says the number of Americans that are without internet service is 43 million. The Hagstrom Report says that’s double the estimate of 21.3 million from the Federal Communications Commission.

The report also says the problem is worse than the FCC says it is in rural America. They say the discrepancy occurs because the FCC relies on semi-annual self-reporting by Internet service providers using the FCC-mandated Form 477.

If an ISP offers service to at least one household in a census block, then the FCC counts the entire census block as covered by that provider, even if the rest of the block doesn’t have service. BroadbandNow Research says it examined the magnitude of this flaw by manually checking internet availability using FCC data as the source of truth for randomly selected addresses.

BroadbandNow Research says it believes that “provider reporting on address-level availability is the best and most transparent way to understand and quantify the digital divide.” They also believe that FCC reporting should be timelier. FCC Form 477 data typically comes out to the public about 12-18 months after the ISPs file their required reports.