The Federal government has worked to expand access to broadband across the U.S. through large investments in the sector and can continue expanding access in rural areas by improving data and broadband access maps.
In a new report by the Government Accountability Office (GAO), it identified the strides made by Federal Communications Commission (FCC) between 2015 and 2017 through its Universal Service Fund high-cost program that expanded broadband service to 2.3 million residential and small business locations.
While FCC reported in 2018 that fixed broadband was available to 94.4 percent of the U.S. population, GAO cited that only about one in four people have access to broadband in rural areas.
The FCC and Rural Utilities Service (RUS) have worked together and separately to close the gap in rural broadband access, including initiatives to change how broadband deployment data is collected and broadband deployment issues.
“Continued communication and coordination on topics such as collecting and using improved data will be especially important in assuring that Federal dollars are effectively targeted as agencies’ efforts to improve mapping and target resources progress,” the report stated.
GAO made recommendations to FCC to improve its mapping data and for RUS to better manage its broadband programs in past reports. The two Federal agencies have addressed some, but not all of the recommendations.