With more business, education and commerce going online, many are pushing for an increase in the download and upload speeds necessary for a provider to legitimately carry the broadband label. A broadband availability report from researchers at BroadbandNow found that such a change in the definition would affect availability levels in some states more than others.
BroadbandNow, which maintains a broadband availability database, is advocating a redefinition of broadband from the current 25 Mbps download and 3 Mbps upload (25/3) to 100/25 Mbps If the new standard is used, the five states with the highest percentage of access would be in (in order) Washington, D.C., Rhode Island, New Jersey, Delaware and New York. The states with the least qualifying broadband (in order) would be Montana, Wyoming, Maine, South Carolina and Alabama.
Connecticut is the top “25/3” state now, but would fall to sixth place under the more aggressive standard. And Montana’s availability would shrink from 80% with the current broadband definition to 17% in the faster scenario.
Affordability also is an important issue. It is defined in the broadband availability report as a monthly fee of $60 or less. Rhode Island has the most affordable broadband using both the current definition and the more aggressive one. It is followed by Washington, DC; New Jersey; New York and Maryland at the faster speed level.
Alaska, Vermont, Maine, New Hampshire and Idaho would have no affordable broadband under the more aggressive standard, while 1% of people in Montana and North Dakota would have access to affordable broadband.
The broadband availability report touches on the availability of broadband for children forced into remote learning scenarios by the COVID-19 pandemic. Almost 1 million kids live in counties with less than 50% broadband availability. And even where broadband is available, coverage may not be robust enough to consistently serve students’ needs. In a bit of good news, BroadbandNow found that “speeds held relatively steady as schools began to open, even improving in some cases.”
The research is based on publicly available coverage data from more than 2,000 ISPs.
The BroadbandNow report noted that Starlink rural broadband, which is entering beta, could “bring a new kind of broadband to the masses.” The SpaceX project is based on low-Earth orbiting (LEO) satellites.
The company indeed is nearing launch. Yesterday, it introduced pricing for its “Better Than Nothing” beta launch. The service is priced at $99 per month and carries a $499 upfront equipment cost.