Rural telcos have made big gains in gigabit broadband availability and also have seen a big jump in customers who subscribe to gigabit service, according to the latest rural gigabit broadband data from NTCA—The Rural Broadband Association.
The average NTCA rural telco member offers gigabit service to nearly half (45.1%) of its service area – up from 25.3% in 2019.
And while relatively few customers (7.9%) subscribe to gigabit service, that percentage has more than doubled over the past year. Less than 4% of customers (3.4%) subscribed to gigabit service in 2019.
On average, more than two thirds (67.8%) of rural telcos’ customers have speeds of 100 Mbps or higher available to them.
More than a quarter (28.1%) of rural customers, on average, subscribe to service at speeds of 100 Mbps or higher. The most popular speed tier remains 25-100 Mbps, with 35.8% of rural telco customers, on average, subscribing to service at that speed.
Nearly all rural telco members responding to the NTCA survey (97.5%) use fiber-to-the-home to provide broadband to some portion of their service area.
Rural Gigabit Broadband
Rural telcos play an important role in providing broadband to community anchor institutions, the NTCA research shows. More than eight in 10 primary/secondary schools (81.2%) are connected to respondents’ networks via fiber, as are 73.5% of public safety entities, 68.9% of public libraries, and 66.5% of hospitals and medical clinics.
The average speed that NTCA members make available to anchor institutions exceeds a gigabit (1.428 Gbps) – although the average service that anchor institutions purchase is 235 Mbps.
“Our 2020 survey shows just how committed NTCA members are to expanding fiber networks to more homes, businesses and anchor institutions like schools, libraries and health care providers—and to upgrading upstream and downstream connections that allow not just for watching your favorite show but also remote learning, connecting via VPN to work or consulting with a doctor many miles away,” said Shirley Bloomfield, CEO of NTCA, in a press release about the rural gigabit broadband research.
Larger service providers such as AT&T, Verizon and Windstream have increasingly been using fixed wireless to serve rural areas. But the NTCA research did not find the same trend among member companies.
Less than three in 10 (28.9%) of NTCA members currently offer fixed wireless service and less than half of those companies (12.1% of total respondents) are considering expanding this service. More than two thirds (68.9%) of NTCA members do not offer fixed wireless and have no plans to do so. Only 2.1% of respondents said they do not offer fixed wireless but are considering it for the future.
The full results of the NTCA member rural gigabit broadband survey can be found in the 2020 “Broadband/Internet Availability Survey Report” at this link.