US Still Suffers Broadband Divide

Despite cable's DOCSIS 3.0 upgrades, Verizon Communications Inc.'s latest FiOS deployments and a growing interest in 1Gbit/s networks, a good number of U.S. citizens are still stuck with a low-speed Internet access service. According to the latest Internet Access Services report released by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), 64 percent of fixed connections met the minimum broadband threshold of 3 Mbit/s downstream and 768 Kbit/s upstream as of June 2012. While that number is up from 56 percent a year earlier, it still means that more than a third of fixed Internet subscriptions in the U.S. don't qualify as broadband. The total number of fixed Internet subs increased 4 percent year-over-year to 90 million connections. Meanwhile, on the mobile front, only 28 percent of data connections reached minimum broadband speeds. The total number of mobile data subscriptions, however, increased by 28 percent to hit 153 million connections across the country. Most mobile Internet plans are add-ons to home Internet subscriptions. However, industry experts estimate that 7 percent of U.S. consumers are now entirely dependent on mobile access. But while high-speed mobile Internet connections are becoming a larger piece of the mobile pie, the vast majority of mobile Internet subscribers experience relatively low speeds. On the fixed-connection front, cable continues to dominate across access platforms. Of the 90 million connections, cable modems accounted for more than half in June 2012, with just under 50 million subscriptions, according to the FCC. DSL connections appear to have peaked in 2011, but there were still 31.3 million by June 2012. Fiber-to-the-premises connections ran a distant third with 6.3 million subscriptions. — Mari Silbey, Special to Light Reading Cable
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