Broadband service provides users with many opportunities to improve communications and broadband deployment is particularly critical in rural areas to provide advanced communications to remote users and communities. In 2010, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) estimated that 7 million U.S. housing units — about 5% of the nation's housing units — did not have access to wireline broadband service, mostly in rural areas. Some municipalities, cooperatives, and non-traditional private providers are exploring ways to sponsor and fund broadband projects in unserved and underserved areas.
The GAO was asked to provide information on options for broadband deployment in unserved and underserved areas. This report examines (1) what is known about the alternative approaches unserved and underserved areas have used to deploy broadband and some factors considered in deployment decisions; (2) stakeholders' views on broadband deployment in unserved and underserved areas; and (3) efforts the FCC has undertaken to foster broadband deployment in unserved areas.