• Notwithstanding progress that has been made in recent years, a new Broadband Progress Report released by the FCC finds that approximately 19 million Americans still lack access to fixed broadband service at threshold speeds. According to the report, which the FCC is required to provide annually, nearly one-fourth of the population in rural areas lack access, while nearly one-third of the population on Native American tribal areas are without access. Even where broadband is available, approximately 100 million Americans still do not subscribe. The report concludes that until the FCC’s Connect America reforms are fully implemented, these gaps are unlikely to close. Because millions still lack access to or have not adopted broadband, the Commission concludes broadband is not yet being deployed in a reasonable and timely fashion. The FCC’s Eighth Broadband Progress Report, available here. A map showing availability of fixed broadband is available here.

In addition to releasing the annual progress report, the Commission also issued a Notice of Inquiry seeking comment about three core characteristics — speed, latency, and data capacity — for the purposes of determining whether advanced telecommunications capability is being deployed to all Americans. The Commission also asks for comment about whether it should evaluate mobile broadband availability using a different benchmark than those used for fixed broadband service and about which characteristics of mobile broadband service the Commission should consider in establishing such benchmarks. Finally, the Commission asks parties to provide data to assess the current state of the broadband market and how the Commission can ensure that progress is being made not only towards meeting current broadband needs, but also stimulate future development and innovation. Comments are due September 20, 2012; Reply comments are due October 22, 2012. The Notice is available here.