White House Report Says Broadband Has Become a 'Core Utility'

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By Devin Coldewey

A new report from the White House's Broadband Opportunity Council says that broadband "has steadily shifted from an optional amenity to a core utility for households, businesses and community institutions," and recommends further federal support for those who lack access.

"Today, broadband is taking its place alongside water, sewer and electricity as essential infrastructure for communities," the report reads.

Related: Is Internet Access a Public Utility, Like Water or Gas?

Chart showing Internet adoption in the US, by County.Broadband Opportunity Council

The council, created by President Obama and co-chaired by the secretaries of Commerce and Agriculture, went over broadband access data from 2013. It produced a report summarizing the state of the industry and what can be done to improve it. In general, access is improving, but a few stubborn problems remain, according to the report.

For one thing, rural and tribal areas are underserved, often having only limited-speed options. Low-income families are also far less likely to use broadband, suggesting the cost is still too high for many. And perhaps at the root of both, lack of competition in many regions means many Americans have little or no choice in what service they get and how much they pay.

Related: Obama Pledges to Bring Broadband Internet to Poor Households

The report goes on to recommend that federal programs be updated to include investment in or other support of deploying broadband — the idea being that improved access to the Internet advances many of such programs' goals. It also says federal assets should also be selectively used to foster competition between providers, and more data should be collected for studies like this one.

You can read the full report here (PDF).