Light Reading

FCC Data: Fixed Broadband Still Growing

Mari Silbey
12/30/2013
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The latest Internet Access Services report from the FCC confirms that American broadband subscriptions are on the rise.

As of the end of 2012, the latest time period for which the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has data, 69.7% of fixed Internet connections met the broadband speed threshold of 3 Mbit/s downstream and 768 kbit/s upstream. That's a measurable increase over the 64% statistic cited only six months prior. Total fixed Internet subscriptions also rose from 90 million to 92.6 million in the second half of the year. (See US Still Suffers Broadband Divide.)

The mobile broadband trends are even more dramatic. Only 37.8% of mobile connections met the speed requirements for broadband classification, according to the FCC's report, but that number marks a significant improvement over the 28% figure reported six months earlier. Total mobile Internet connections also jumped from 153 million in the middle of 2012 to 169.2 million at the end of that year.

While the FCC's broadband access report paints a rosy picture, there are some mitigating factors to consider. Most notably, the jump in mobile connections coincides with an apparent growth trend in the percentage of American households that rely on wireless service as their sole source of Internet access.

According to the Pew Internet Home Broadband 2013 report published in August, 10% of households use only mobile connections to access the Internet. In contrast, an expert from the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies estimated last March that the number of mobile-only subscribers was down around 7%. While the number from the Joint Center was only estimation, the suggestion that mobile access is substituting for fixed Internet in a growing segment of the population makes sense in the context of other evidence. Smartphone penetration continues to rise, and many households can't afford both a higher mobile phone bill and the cost of fixed Internet service at home.

There is also the issue of disparity in Internet access across different states. In the FCC's latest report, Massachusetts took the prize as the state with the highest percentage of households claiming fixed broadband connections with a total of 77%. New Jersey wasn't far behind with 76%. However, at the bottom of the state list, Mississippi pulled down the average with a measly 24% fixed broadband penetration rate.

Meanwhile, cable dominated as the most popular form of Internet access across the country. In the second half of 2012, the number of cable broadband subscriptions grew nearly 17% to 44.1 million. Asymmetric DSL broadband subs grew just over 1% to top 13 million. And fiber-to-the-premises broadband connections increased 7.07% to hit 6.43 million.

— Mari Silbey, Special to Light Reading Cable

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GeoTel
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GeoTel,
User Rank: Light Beer
1/3/2014 | 2:17:27 PM
Consistency
Getting to see growth that is that significant in such a short amount of time is impressive and encouraging! Who knows where speeds for mobile data or FTTH will be in two years...
DanJones
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DanJones,
User Rank: Blogger
1/2/2014 | 11:52:59 AM
Re: Mobile
Kind of like the Carlson Wireless trial in California?
davidhoffman
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davidhoffman,
User Rank: Light Beer
1/2/2014 | 11:49:34 AM
Re: Mobile
In large metropolitan areas with dozens of OTA broadcast stations there is little, if any, TVWS. In many rural areas you not only have TVWS but completely empty ATSC channels.  The rural areas are where I envision TVWS providing a significant alternative to satellite or dialup internet access. I know several people who might benefit from getting such a service. We are not talking about some super Gigabit per second service. It would be something that in many cases would only meet the very bottom of the FCC definition of broadband, 3 Mbps down and 0.75 Mbps up I think it is.  One reason to use such low maximum data transfer rates would be to simplify administration of the subscriber accounts.  At such low data transfer rates, monthly caps that have to be tracked might be eliminated from consideration by the ISP.
msilbey
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msilbey,
User Rank: Blogger
1/2/2014 | 9:51:56 AM
Re: Mobile
Karl- Interesting question. I took a quick look back through the report and couldn't tell. But I did notice that the FCC was actually using 3mbps/768kbps as a proxy for the broadband threshold rather than the actual demarcation of 4mbps/1mbps. Apparently their forms all had the lower number so they had to use that as a dividing line. In short, the number of actual broadband mobile connections may be even lower. 

 
msilbey
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msilbey,
User Rank: Blogger
1/2/2014 | 9:51:56 AM
Re: Mobile
Karl- Interesting question. I took a quick look back through the report and couldn't tell. But I did notice that the FCC was actually using 3mbps/768kbps as a proxy for the broadband threshold rather than the actual demarcation of 4mbps/1mbps. Apparently their forms all had the lower number so they had to use that as a dividing line. In short, the number of actual broadband mobile connections may be even lower. 

 
KBode
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KBode,
User Rank: Light Sabre
1/1/2014 | 1:24:13 PM
Re: Mobile
I think the loss of cable VoIP customers is also going to accelerate as people try to offset soaring programming costs by trimming their home voice and going cell only -- especially as VoLTE arrives and voice quality improves. That of course means a much harder push in 2014 for caps and meters.

That 37.8% mobile metric is interesting. I couldn't see it in the report yet, but by "mobile connecions" are they including feature phones?
DanJones
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DanJones,
User Rank: Blogger
12/31/2013 | 1:05:40 PM
Re: Mobile
Is there enough TVWS spectrum available to make it viable?
DanJones
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DanJones,
User Rank: Blogger
12/31/2013 | 1:04:28 PM
Re: Mobile
Interesting, thanks for the info.
davidhoffman
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davidhoffman,
User Rank: Light Beer
12/31/2013 | 7:54:43 AM
Re: Mobile
A lot of people who use satellite ISPs transfer to cellular based ISPs if they can afford to set up the parabolic antennas, amplifiers, and other hardware needed to do so. I have helped several people set up Millenicom, Verizon, and Sprint accounts so that they can get either better than dialup internet access or get rid of satellite internet access. The move by Verizon to offer Home Fusion will probably be followed by other mobile operators creating similar offerings. 

The other area that is anticipated will be fixed location TV White Space utilization to provide internet access services in areas that presently have only dialup wired connectivity. 
msilbey
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msilbey,
User Rank: Blogger
12/30/2013 | 11:21:16 PM
Re: Mobile
Interestingly, the threshold for broadband classification took into consideration the speeds that mobile carriers could deliver. (Blair Levin talked about this at some DC event a few years back.) The theory was that wireless provides would be there to pick up the slack from some of the wireline companies. 
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