The BIGGEST Problem...
...is caused by the existing ISP's and the FCC.
As someone who FINALLY saw deployment of DSL last October, I struggled with satellite and then used Alltel. When I heard Alltel was about to be swallowed by Verizon Wireless I knew it would go poorly for those of us with Alltel FOR. A. REASON. They had great service, their online portal was easy to navigate and I was getting a terrific 2.8-3.2Mbps with an aircard and a truly unlimited account. When the Borg took over, that came to an aggravating end. I dealt with 40Kb speeds until Frontier finally used the nice, fat FIOS cable beneath our main street and brought through DSL. Now if I could just persuade them to update the equipment at CO so I could get 6-8Mb down...!
I agree completely that satellite should NOT be included in this study. Obscenely low caps are NOT acceptable for home service (this means you too, VZW LTE), especially if you have kids that need to do homework or take an online class for college credit. I could have dealt with the slow download speed, but the high latency and having to be a damned FAP cop was just sick. The price is high -- over $70/month -- but that wouldn't have been an issue if the service hadn't been so poor, and THEN they lopped 25% off of caps because they oversold the beam.
I understand the geographic problems and why some homes will have an extremely hard time getting broadband. Going through mountains has to be tricky, and living to the north of a peak that blocks a southern satellite is most inconvenient. Still, there's no way my community should've waited so long for DSL given the high numbers of U of Michigan employees that live here.
As to how they figure availability...nearby Chelsea, a rather upscale town, is surrounded by very affluent homes where the cable stops 500 ft. away. There must be *thousands* of these neighborhoods that aren't being served who would gladly pay money for it, but the regional monopoly doesn't think it's worth it to extend when they can just jack up prices on existing customers. When the Connect America technical expert paid me a visit, he said there are so many of these types of situations and they're being completely dissed by cable.
Sorry for the long post, but this has been a pet soapbox for 6 years. Even though I have access I am painfully aware of the frustrations thousands of others feel, and those who can't use the internet like the rest of the civilized world because of stingy caps at home. I really wish there was something I could do to help other than being a loud voice in a small room.