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