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FCC Report: Broadband Needs Bigger Boost in Rural AZ

June 22, 2011

PHOENIX - 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 which says Arizonans lack that access at a rate 50 percent higher than the national average.

About 763,000 people in Arizona don't have high-speed access, according to the FCC's annual checkup of the deployment of broadband across the nation.

Progress in broadband deployment has been made across the nation, says Sharon Gillett, chief of the FCC's Wireline Competition Bureau, but a hefty workload remains - especially 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 standard level of broadband service in the country, and that's too many. We need to close that gap."

One in eight Arizonans lives in an area without broadband availability, the report says, and where it is available, the FCC discovered another hurdle: Not everyone wants to subscribe. Gillett says digital literacy projects are important.

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

The FCC is looking to more public and private partnerships to ramp up access, such as what was done with telephone service. The agency believes reforming the Universal Service Fund to better deploy high-speed Internet in underserved areas also will help.

The FCC's Broadband Progress Report is online at fcc.gov.

Doug Ramsey, Public News Service - AZ