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Rural fiber penetration now stands at 23%, according to a study conducted by Pivot Group (parent company of Telecompetitor) and sponsored by Innovative Systems.

In comparison to national numbers, market research firm RVA, LLC reported just over 20 million homes were connected to fiber in 2019, or 44% of homes passed. This roughly equates to 16% penetration of all households nationally (as of 2019).

The 6th Annual Rural Video and Broadband Industry Study from Pivot Group also found that cable broadband penetration leads all access technologies in rural America at 39%. DSL ranked at 14%, followed by fixed wireless at 10% and satellite broadband at 6%. Roughly 8% of rural households are using their cell phone plan for internet access.

Fixed wireless and satellite broadband penetration in rural markets will be interesting numbers to watch in the coming years as RDOF and other government sponsored programs are funding growth for these access technologies in underserved and unserved rural markets.

Fiber broadband has the highest satisfaction among rural internet subscribers at 8.1 on a 10-point scale, where 10 indicates completely satisfied. Surprisingly, fixed wireless was rated second after fiber broadband at 7.9. The average satisfaction rating was 7.6. DSL is under performing at 7.1.

rural fiber penetration chart
Rural Broadband Access Technology Penetration (Source: 6th Annual Rural Video & Broadband Study)

Most rural consumers are satisfied with their current broadband speed, but close to 1/3 indicate they would like to see faster speeds, highlighting an opportunity for rural broadband carriers.

Rural fiber penetration is helping drive usage of internet applications including streaming. Forty-nine percent of rural households are now streaming including 68% of 18–34-year-olds. On the flip side, 43% of rural TV subscribers do not stream at all.

Other key findings from the study, which surveyed over 800 rural internet subscribers:

  • Access to local channels and bundling Internet are users’ top two reasons for staying with their current TV provider.
  • Close to 1/2 of rural customers bundle Internet and TV.
  • Just over 1/4 of rural customers have managed Wi-Fi, and more than 1/3 are interested in it.

To get a copy of the full study, contact Scott Meyer at Innovative Systems.

Correction: Initially, this post compared rural fiber penetration to national fiber homes passed penetration. The post has been updated to more accurately compare fiber penetration on a total households basis, not just homes passed.

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