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FCC Report: Broadband Economy Needs Bigger Boost in Rural Communities

June 20, 2011

NASHVILLE, Tenn. - Job opportunities will elude millions of mostly rural Americans because they lack access to high-speed Internet, according to a new report by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). In Tennessee, more than 489,000 residents lack that access.

Sharon Gillett, chief of the FCC's Wireline Competition Bureau, says progress in broadband deployment has been made across the nation, but a hefty workload remains - particularly in rural areas.

"We need to continue with our reforms in order to ensure that everybody gets broadband. We still have 26 million people without the standard level of broadband service in this country, and that's too many. We need to close that gap."

According to the FCC report, 8 percent of Tennessee residents live in areas without broadband. Where broadband is available, the FCC discovered another hurdle: Not everyone wants to subscribe. That is why digital literacy projects also are important, Gillett says.

"Often it's cost, but not always. Sometimes it's just that they don't believe it's relevant in their lives. So many aren't subscribing that we also view broadband adoption as an issue we definitely need to be working on."

The FCC is looking to more public and private partnerships to ramp up access, such as those set up to assure telephone service. The agency believes reforming the Universal Service Fund will also help to extend high-speed Internet to under-served areas.

The FCC Broadband Progress Report can be found at www.fcc.gov.

Glen Gardner, Public News Service - TN