More than half of rural residents (55.4%) served by broadband service provider members of NTCA—The Rural Broadband Association have gigabit speed service available to them and more than three quarters can get 100 Mbps service, according to a new NTCA member survey.
In comparison, 67.8% of NTCA member customers could get speeds of 100 Mbps or above last year, including just 45.1% who could get gigabit service.
Customers also are subscribing to higher speeds, the report notes. Nine percent of NTCA member subscribers were taking gigabit speeds and 28.3% were taking 100 Mbps service when the survey was conducted in August, up from 7.9% and 20.2%, respectively, in a 2020 NTCA member survey.
Recent data from OpenVault’s OVBI, which tracks internet usage for rural and urban consumers, found 11.4% of consumers take a gigabit speed tier.
The most popular speed tier remains in the 25 Mbps-to-100 Mbps range, however, with 34.9% of rural subscribers taking service at speeds within that range, a number that decreased slightly from 35.8% last year.
NTCA rural broadband provider members also made gains in the number of fiber-connected anchor institutions. This year’s survey found more than eight in 10 (83.7%) primary/secondary schools connected to respondents’ networks via fiber, up slightly from 81.2% in 2020. And the percentage of fiber-connected libraries increased, to 77.1% from an average of 68.9% in 2020.
This year also saw an increase in the mean speed available to anchor institutions, which increased from 1.43 Gbps in 2020 to 1.73 Gbps. The speed to which anchor institutions subscribe also increased — from 235 Mbps to 313 Mbps.
Fixed Wireless Not Favored
While fixed wireless is gaining in momentum with some of the major broadband providers such as T-Mobile and Verizon, it isn’t gaining much traction among NTCA members, according to the survey.
Just over six in 10 respondents (62.9%) said they do not offer fixed wireless and do not have plans to offer it in the future. Less than 4% of respondents (3.6%) said they do not offer this service but have plans to offer it or are considering offering it.
Of the 33.4% of NTCA members who offer fixed wireless, the majority (20% of total respondents) do not plan to expand it in the future. Only 13.4% of total respondents offer the service and either have plans to expand it or are considering expansion.
“As we stand now on the cusp of once-in-a-generation investment to bring connectivity to all Americans, NTCA members have proven they are up to the task of delivering the best possible networks in rural communities—and they are eager to prove themselves again and build upon this success as these new programs come online,” said Shirley Bloomfield, CEO of NTCA, in a press release about the member survey and rural broadband speed gains.