BroadbandThere’s more competition in U.S. broadband markets at lower speeds than at higher speeds, according to a new Commerce Department report – the first to analyze competition across the full range of Internet service speeds across the U.S. That asymmetry threatens to worsen the digital divide, the Commerce Department warns.

“This report gives policymakers a deeper understanding of what is occurring in the ISP marketplace,” U.S. Commerce Department Chief Economist Sue Helper was quoted in a news release.

“We know that competition typically drives down prices. And we also know that increasingly, higher Internet speeds are required for optimal functionality of popular, high-bandwidth computing applications. As more and more commerce and information move online, we risk further widening the digital divide if access to affordable, higher speed Internet doesn’t keep pace.”

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Commerce Broadband Report Findings
Commerce’s study reveals that at 10 Mbps level, Americans on average can choose between two fixed ISPs or subscribe to any of three mobile ISPs. And when it comes to speeds of 3 Mbps, 98 percent of the U.S. population had a choice of at least two mobile ISPs and 88 percent had a choice among two or more fixed ISPs. But that amount of bandwidth can quickly become inadequate when “multiple household members consume video streaming services, music streaming, and online games,” Commerce notes.

Broadband competition is considerably more scarce at broadband speeds above 10 Mbps. Only 37 percent of the U.S. population has a choice of two or more fixed-service providers at speeds of 25 Mbps or greater. Just nine percent had three or more choices.

In addition, 40 percent of Americans don’t live in an area where very-high-speed broadband access of 100 Mbps or greater is available. Just eight percent of the U.S. population with fixed broadband services had access to two or more service providers and one percent had access to three or more at this rate of bandwidth.

Furthermore, just three percent of the U.S. population had access to Internet services at speeds of 1 Gbps or more. None had two or more ISPs providing broadband service at these speeds.

When it comes to mobile broadband, it’s “virtually non-existent at download speeds of 25 Mbps or greater,” Commerce points out.

Commerce’s Economics & Statistics Administration, which produced the report, has put up a blog on the report and the issue of competition in the U.S. broadband market.

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