Ninety percent of U.S. housing units had fixed wireless or landline broadband service at speeds of 25 Mbps downstream/ 3 Mbps upstream available to them as of mid-2016, according to an analysis of FCC broadband data conducted by USTelecom and CensusNBM. Ten percent of housing units could get service at downstream speeds of 1 Gbps (and any upstream speed), USTelecom/ CensusNBM said.
If fixed wireless is not included in the analysis, both numbers drop by one percentage point.
The numbers also vary when urban and rural areas are broken apart. Just 64% of people in rural areas can get 25/3 Mbps fixed wireless or wired service, while 97% of people in non-rural areas can get service at those speeds, according to the report, titled “U.S. Broadband Availability Mid-2016.”
And when only landline service is counted, the spread is even wider. While the percentage for people in non-rural areas remains at 97%, the number for rural areas falls to 59%.
Overall fixed wireless service at any speed was available to 37% of Americans, according to the report.
FCC Broadband Data Analysis
The USTelecom report comes out at a time when the carriers that the association represents have been complaining about conclusions drawn from recent FCC broadband progress reports. The commission prepares the report about once a year and in recent years has concluded that broadband is not being deployed in a timely fashion.
A look at the FCC web page shows that the latest broadband progress report came out early last year, and it doesn’t appear that the next one will come out any time soon, as the commission is currently considering changes to that report, including what speed should be used to define “broadband.” Carriers complained when the commission raised the speed from 10/1 Mbps to 25/3 Mbps for the most recent report, arguing that doing so underestimated the progress that had been made in deploying broadband.
With this in mind, the USTelecom report could be viewed as the association’s attempt to forestall any negative findings that might come out in the next FCC report, particularly considering that it uses the same raw data sources – carriers’ Form 477 filings – that are the basis for the FCC report. In a press release, USTelecom notes that the availability of 25 Mbps service increased from 49% in 2010 to 90% in 2016.
The association also argues that “The FCC’s data shows variations across rural areas in terms of deployment, speeds and competition. While there are gaps in rural broadband, there is no single ‘rural broadband gap.’ Rather, gaps exist in specific rural areas, either where broadband is not available because of challenging economics or where there is only one provider and either demand, industry technology trends or subsidies are not driving sufficient upgrades.”
The authors argue this point more forcefully in the report’s conclusion. “There is not a monolithic broadband gap, but a range of areas that do not have sufficient broadband available to them,” the conclusion says. “Policies must be targeted, addressing specific problem areas, and must be flexible to allow for economically efficient solutions.”
Image courtesy of flickr user Sean MacEntee.