updated 06:45 pm EST, Fri December 10, 2010
FCC says 68pc of US Internet below 4Mbps broadband
The FCC in a new study (PDF) published this week revealed that over two thirds of US broadband Internet access doesn't meet its newer broadband standards. About 68 percent of connections measured at the end of 2009 were below the 4Mbps download and 1Mbps upload speeds that qualify for the term. A full 58 percent didn't make 3Mbps downstream, and nearly half at 49 percent couldn't meet at least a 768Kbps upload rate.
Only 30 percent of download speeds could be considered relatively good, at 6Mbps or more, and 12 percent could manage 1.5Mbps uploads or better. The data also revealed that 3G and 4G Internet access was actually the most widespread by type at 39.4 percent, although cable Internet access was almost always the choice for faster access as it made up 70 percent of connections over 3Mbps. ADSL and cable Internet access reached 23.3 percent and 32.4 percent.
Lack of competition also became evident in the study. Although telecom firms have often insisted on the existence of healthy competition, few areas had enough competition at the FCC's new benchmarks. About 58 percent of people had three wired or wireless providers to choose from that could manage at least 3Mbps down and 200Kbps up, but that competition was almost entirely eroded once looking at genuinely fast connections with at least 6Mbps down and 1.5Mbps up. In those conditions, 97 percent of users had only one or two carriers at most to choose from.
The results were lower still when excluding wireless access.
Expansion of faster 3G, 4G and fiber optic services is likely to improve the situation, but the figures at least partly support the National Broadband Plan, which would call for 100 million homes to get 100Mbps or better access by 2020. The discoveries also stress the importance of rural coverage as many of the slowest areas are often rural areas that providers either can't or refuse to service due to the cost of running wires versus the expected return.
Wireless reach may also support FCC arguments that at least some wireless regulation is necessary to prevent duopolies or monopolies as well as to prevent them from excluding competitive services from their networks. Carriers like Verizon have vehemently opposed pro-competition regulation but have also said that 4G could replace landlines in time. [via BBR]