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While the report that 35% of Americans don't have access to high-speed Internet in the home created many headlines over the past week, what hasn't attracted as much attention is the finding that 15% of the country's adult population now uses mobile wireless broadband on laptops.
The statistics were published in a survey released by the FCC as it prepares to submit its National Broadband Plan to Congress. Mobile broadband, for which users must pay a fee, is relatively new, so the 15% usage figures indicate that the wireless phenomenon is catching on and is likely to increase rapidly as more robust 4G networks are deployed.
Survey respondents were asked whether they used "a service with your laptop computer that is called wireless broadband, allowing you to access the Internet virtually anywhere? This is usually a service that you have to pay a monthly fee for, either by itself or as part of another communications bill. This is NOT what is called Wi-Fi."
With 4G wireless broadband increasingly being deployed, the 15% usage figure will surely grow as Sprint-Nextel steps up rollout of its WiMax network and Verizon Wireless prepares to deploy its LTE network later this year. Sprint, which is deploying its 4G network through its majority-owned Clearwire carrier, is already offering broadband wireless via data cards. Verizon Wireless will begin offering data cards later this year when it debuts the LTE service in 25-30 markets.
In releasing the survey, the FCC underscored the fact that some 93 million Americans still don't have access to high-speed Internet at home. The FCC, under new chairman Julius Genachowski, has pledged to bring high-speed Web access to more Americans at affordable rates.
The FCC survey, conducted among 5,000 adult Americans last October and November, found that 70% of users get their broadband in a bundle of services.