FCC: 68% of US broadband connections aren't broadband

By on December 12, 2010, 4:31 PM
The FCC has published a new 87-page report titled "Internet Access Services: Status as of December 31, 2009." The report explains that 68 percent of connections in the US advertised as "broadband" can't really be considered as such because they fall below the agency's most recent minimum requirements: 4Mbps downstream and 1Mbps upstream.

In other words, more than two-thirds of broadband Internet connections in the US aren't really broadband; over 90 million people in the country are using a substandard broadband service. To make matters worse, 58 percent of connections don't even reach downstream speeds above 3Mbps. The definition of broadband is constantly changing, and it's becoming clear that the US is having a hard time keeping up.

The report also notes that wireless service subscribers with mobile devices and data plans for full Internet access grew 48 percent to 52 million in the second half of 2009. Furthermore, for all connections over 200 kbps, mobile wireless is the leading technology at 39.4 percent, ahead of cable modems and ADSL, at 32.4 percent and 23.3 percent, respectively. For connections over 3Mbps, however, cable modems account for 70 percent share.

While it's important to remember that the report focuses on what broadband speeds consumers are actually choosing to purchase, as opposed to availability, it's still worth noting that the overall picture is a poor one. Consumers may have higher speeds available to them but if they are opting to subscribe to significantly lower speed tiers, competition isn't fierce enough and thus the overall situation isn't changing very much.





User Comments: 37

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motrin said:

the last sentence sums it up beautifully.

i want my broadband out in the boonies!

vipor231 said:

and that's the problem without competition the cable company will still keep there price at $50 a month for there standard speeds...they have been $50 for years it would be nice if they could go down to maybe $30 but without competition that probably will never happen

Kibaruk Kibaruk, TechSpot Paladin, said:

How would people want something more expensive than they use? I mean... who would get a 10 mbps or more to read news on the web?

Normal people with normal needs go with cheaper connections that suits and are more than they really need.

Prosercunus said:

Kibaruk said:

How would people want something more expensive than they use? I mean... who would get a 10 mbps or more to read news on the web?

Normal people with normal needs go with cheaper connections that suits and are more than they really need.

Those normal people are also streaming high definition videos and other highly intensive bandwidth program then ever before. I know this just from working on the average home consumers computers. The days of just reading the news and streaming 480p movies is rapidly disappearing.

Xclusiveitalian Xclusiveitalian said:

They want to make the most money by giving us as little as possible, simple as that.

Guest said:

owned moved to korea if you want real broadband.

Kibaruk Kibaruk, TechSpot Paladin, said:

Would you dare make a number for that % prosercunus?

I could also say that console kids play over internet or download games, trailers, demos but then again could not even be close to an amazing % at all as to call them "normal" users.

princeton princeton said:

I find this funny. Because canadian internet is more expensive and I'm still able to run a 70mbps connection on my budget.

Guest said:

I have 2.5mb down and .42mb up for $32 /month. It was advertised as 3 down and .5 up, but I guess I live too far away from the DSL center. All in all it gets me by, but gaming is laggy and I can't go higher than 480p streaming videos. Guess I can't call my Internet broad band anymore.

princeton princeton said:

Guest said:

I have 2.5mb down and .42mb up for $32 /month. It was advertised as 3 down and .5 up, but I guess I live too far away from the DSL center. All in all it gets me by, but gaming is laggy and I can't go higher than 480p streaming videos. Guess I can't call my Internet broad band anymore.

This is why I prefer cable. As cable runs through fiberoptics until it hits your house and it doesn't matter how far you are from where the internet center.

Prosercunus said:

Kibaruk said:

Would you dare make a number for that % prosercunus?

I could also say that console kids play over internet or download games, trailers, demos but then again could not even be close to an amazing % at all as to call them "normal" users.

How could I randomly throw out a percentage? It is a fact that people use more bandwidth nowadays then they did even five years ago. Even ISP's have acknowledged this, I am sorry you don't.

Guest said:

I was so blind until I realized that Mb/s was different from MB/s. I was so looking forward to my brand new 12 MB/s download speeds and then I realized it was actually closer to 2....... It's bull.

Guest said:

Love my comcast line 45-60 Mbps *( on a 20Mb teir)

pings 20-90ms with jitter of 2ms to 4ms

all in all the speed i have i pay 54.95 a month.

good news comcast is still spreading to new areas and upgrading along the way, like they did here in Northern Cali.

fpsgamerJR62 said:

I've got 1 Mbps downstream and 384 Kbps upstream. Fine for surfing and light downloading but sucks for watching internet video. Fortunately, I don't do multiplayer games over the internet. I bet that would suck big time too on my connection.

fyrfaktry fyrfaktry said:

xclusiveitalian said:

They want to make the most money by giving us as little as possible, simple as that.

100% correct. The carriers have almost unlimited bandwidth at their disposal, but throttle the shit out of it. A 4Mbps connection in Europe is like dial-up in the US.

Guest said:

Kibaruk@work:

Ok they use more broadband today, that doesn't mean they use their full speed conections nor that they need 10mbps. Also I rather you didnt write condescending messages if that is not to hard for you (See what I did there?).

Not even myself a big downloader use the full broadband every given time I'm online.

TeamworkGuy2 said:

I get 4.5 Mbps download and 0.35 upload; I am paying for 6 Mbps download and 0.5 upload.

Sad, but I can't do anything about it. Although that translates to about 500 Kbps in real world downloads (steam, cnet, filefront, etc...), downloaded insurgency in ~forty minutes (1800 MB), so I don't have anything to complain about other than the high price I am paying.

harby said:

These speeds sound horrible oO In Greece we pay ~20 dollars/month for an unlimited connection that goes up to 24Mbits, depending on how close to the DSLAM you live. For example in my case I synch at 18Mbits and get download speeds of up to 1.8MBs. I'd be really depressed if I were to move in the US..

princeton princeton said:

Guest said:

I was so blind until I realized that Mb/s was different from MB/s. I was so looking forward to my brand new 12 MB/s download speeds and then I realized it was actually closer to 2....... It's bull.

It isn't bull. Anyone who does their research knows that there are bits and bytes.

TorturedChaos, TechSpot Chancellor, said:

princeton said:

This is why I prefer cable. As cable runs through fiberoptics until it hits your house and it doesn't matter how far you are from where the internet center.

Have to agree like my cable, just wish I had a faster up speed (only about 0.5mbps.)

But there are many areas that can't get cable. Area I live in only has cable for about 10miles outside the city limits then you have DSL or Satalite...and with the weather around here you really only have DSL.

Several people I know are stuck with DSL, and rather poor latency because of the distance from the DSL hubs

But back on the original topic - its really not all that surprising report. The USA is really behind on their communication infrastructural - specifically for internet. We were hot on it when the internet first became big and ran everything on copper. That made us king for a while, until the countries that were a little behind got into the race and at that point fiber was just as easy to lay, and skipped a lot of the copper stage. Now the US sits with a lot of copper lines and has to convert them all to fiber to catch up with the rest of the world.

Guest said:

So if the price is $50/month steady (more or less) for a decade, that means it's gone down in real dollars.

Consider the value derived for ~$600/year. People pay at least that much just for the insurance on their cars and it's not considered wildly beyond the pale. Broader availability of high speeds is something to shoot for.

EDO219 said:

Ladies and gents, I often use SpeedTest.net to see if my ISP is lying about my broadband speeds.

For a few more months I am getting Comcast basic cable TV and their highest speed internet for $55. It's nice, but my promotional deal with them ends soon so I'll be finding a different ISP. My results are:

Download: 21.14 Mb/s

Upload: 3.67 Mb/s

Guest said:

That sucks Pygmus. Get Verizon Fios if you can, then you'll see that lame upload speed get faster as well and you won't have to share your pipe with your neighbors.

Guest said:

For me, a current broadband definition should be: 10 Mbps downstream and 1 Mbps upstream.

That is, for "download speed" is necesary a speed of an old ethernet (or 10Mbs), while I can agree with "upload speed" of 10% of an old ethernet (or 1Mbs).

But now, a more strict definition of broadband should be: 10 Mbps downstream and 10 Mbps upstream, ans that's a old ethernert network.

Anything less than the speed of a local area network (ethernet of 10Mbps) is not broadband.

Thanks for you appreciation.

captaincranky captaincranky, TechSpot Addict, said:

My Internet is Sooooo Slooooow........

My internet is so slow, that I have time to meet the girl's parents, while her porn photos are downloading.......!

My internet is so slow, she gains fifty pounds, and has two children while her photos are downloading.

My internet is so slow, oh hell it doesn't matter, I've lost interest in her while the photos were downloading anyway.

Guest said:

In Canada we are saddled with the governing body the CRTC. Filled with former corporate execs and major lobbyists they (CRTC) allowed Bell Canada and Rogers to traffic shape (reduce your connections speed) to customers and isp's who leased their lines. This cry was to stop heavy users from eating up bandwidth. Before the ink was dry on this CRTC ruling, Bell Canada was selling new 13 to 15 mbs download packages with dismal upload speeds. Now our wonderful CRTC allowed the Rogers and Bell (the monopoly) to charge bandwidth usage. On high speed lite packages the cost of using over 15 gig per month is between 2 and 4 dollars a gig. Downloading a dvd from netflix could cost you sixteen dollars. This has lined their (Bell and Rogers monopoly) pockets and destroyed any chance of having a solid alternative to the local video rental store.(owned by Rogers) My friend has an agreement(with Bell from Hell) for unlimited bandwidth usage of 90.00 per month plus 45.95 for high speed Internet. Canada has the highest Cellular fee in the industrial world, we now have the highest Internet rates. ARE WE SHEEP!

Leeky Leeky said:

Ladies and gents, I often use SpeedTest.net to see if my ISP is lying about my broadband speeds.

For a few more months I am getting Comcast basic cable TV and their highest speed internet for $55. It's nice, but my promotional deal with them ends soon so I'll be finding a different ISP. My results are:

Download: 21.14 Mb/s

Upload: 3.67 Mb/s

The upload is a bit pants, but its just to be lifted to 10mb shortly, but here's my fibre optic broadband connection.

windmill007 said:

So basically all DSL plans fail as the upload speed is usually max 768K .. Plus most Verizon users can't get over 3MB download speed.

Guest said:

All I have to say is with Verizon FIOS for my home im getting 50mbs download and 35 mbs upload for $35 a month and there is no other home company that can beat those speeds or prices. Oh wait Verizon can they offer 150mbs down and 50mbs upload plan for $150 a month to your home.

Cable companies cannot garuantee you get what you pay for 100% of the time since the speed is on a ring network and shared with everyone which is why it is so FAIL during peak hours. Get FTTH and you dont have worries on when it will be fast or slow its always fast 24/7 at the speeds you pay for

Guest said:

Our town wont allow competition..the only broadband cable serfvice we can use is cox...so i pay more than 50 dollars a month for broadband...thank you very much city council!!

Guest said:

As a residential customer sitting at speedtest sites and punching the test button does nothing. Residential speeds are not dedicated or guaranteed. Lying? Srsly? The internet was created as a bursting service much like your water. Turn all the faucets on in the house and flush the toilet a couple times and then go take a shower. I'm sure the pressure will be bad.

The internet is the same. If you think you're guaranteed a download speed you've come to the wrong planet. If we all got on the internet at the same time and started watching Netflix the internet would crawl until we were all done with the movie.

Do some research then come back and make a valid comment.

Guest said:

ISP's (Internet Service Providers) are in BUSINESS to make money, not just provide you with access to WoW for next to nothing. If they don't make a PROFIT then they don't stay in BUSINESS, now do they? Why is it that we think we should get this for next to nothing? If you continue to drive prices down and speeds up, there will be NO competition because all that will be left are the largest players - the cable companies, the AT&T's of the world. Why is that SO hard to understand?

Guest said:

It's exactly like saying steak houses offer 12, 16, 32, and 48 oz steaks, and lots of people are still ordering the 12 and 16 oz steaks despite the fact the FDA has defined a broadband steak as 32 oz or bigger. The fact that people are still choosing the smaller steak says there is not enough competition and "the picture is a poor one".

Now this is the media's interpretation, not what some FCC guy said, but I don't like the implication that the government is not satisfied with making sure we have choices, they want to dictate what choices we make, and they won't be satisfied until we all choose to supersize everything. McDonald's needs to make the extra large fries 2 cents more than the small fries, so we all consume more fries than we really wanted.

Guest said:

You know it amaze's me as an ISP myself of how little the public and government really knows about this industry. 4mbps average download for EVERY customer at today's transport and back haul prices is near impossible to sustain. Yes the cableco's can afford it and SOME telco's can.. But you get into the private ISP side and let me inform the uninformed, It costs the average rural or semi-rural ISP somewhere between 100.00 and 300.00 PER MEG of upstream internet bandwidth when transport and back-haul is factored in.

That means that joe customer that wants to stream netflix 24/7 on his 3meg wireless or rural dsl connection that costs him 40 or 50 a month is in reality costing the ISP money just to service him..

This industry is based on over-subscription ratio's meaning we sell more bandwidth than we have capacity for JUST so we can make a slim profit due to the high costs of getting the service in the door.

If the Government wants every wireless and rural dsl subscriber to have more than 4 megs they need to be leaning on the ILECS, RBOCS, and Tier1 providers to lower costs to deliver services.

Ohh and Goverment?? Please stop redefining the term broadband, just a few months ago it was 2meg..

Guest said:

Oh you guys make me envious. The ONLY option here is satellite and top speed is 100 mbps with a 200 MB daily limit. I can't even get Mac OS updates unless I get up at 3 am. It takes 3 hours to download an OS update. BTW, that costs $70/month.

Guest said:

Articles like this always amaze me, but only half as much as the rants that follow. I guess the most interesting part is that the majority of the people who post believe that every Internet user should have unlimited speeds and usage for almost nothing.

This is in spite of the fact that the majority of the Internet users still use less than 20 GB per month. This is in spite of the fact that the majority of Internet users do not want that much bandwidth and do not want to pay for that much bandwidth or for other users portion of that much bandwidth. That is in spite of the fact that most users do not want their Internet experience ruined by people that feel they are entitled to put the ISPs out of business.

End of rant and on to facts. The FCC seems to have some confusion while trying to define broadband. During the ARRA Broadband Stimulus Funding effort they defined Broadband as 768/200 kbps and High Speed as an aggregate total of 5 Mbps which most providers saw as 4/1 Mbps. Granted this was for rural deployment. Remember while all of you are unhappy with your 10 & 20 Mbps downloads, there are still about 30% of rural America on dial-up or satellite. Most of us would be satisfied with a 2 Mbps/512 kbps connection.

Now some facts about monthly Internet usage, although I know that the "power users" like to act like they are the majority. I have researched consumer's monthly Internet data consumption. Median monthly Internet data usage is approximately 2 - 5 GB and average monthly Internet data usage is approximately 6 - 20 GB. This data is based on information gathered from two large cable companies, two smaller companies and three fixed wireless providers. Usage varies with technology, speeds and location. Any one of you can do this research and arrive at the same conclusion......you do have unlimited access to Internet, right?

Here are some real-world statistics from a fixed wireless network that I am using to model my fair use policies for my startup WISP. This network has just over 1000 customers. Average data usage per customer is 8.9 GB and median data usage per customer is 2.9 GB. There are about 260 customers (26%) that use less than 1 GB per month. About 790 customers (79%) use less than the 8.9 GB average. The top 20 customers (2%) use almost 28% of the monthly bandwidth. The top 40 customers (4%), the ones that will exceed my Fair Use Policy Threshold, use about 40% of the bandwidth.

Now why would I, or any other ISP, want to spend huge sums of money to design and run a network for an elite few who have no control over their usage? I can save 40% of my bandwidth costs by controlling 4% of my customers. Even without the bandwidth cost, controlling the few who abuse the network at the expense of many will relieve network congestion and make the majority (96%) of the network customers much happier. Now I know you will talk about how cheap bandwidth is. At my location, it is about 180 - 300 miles to any one of five level one providers. This means I pay 3 - 5 times what I would pay for bandwidth in a large city. Transportation is 60% - 70% of bandwidth cost. I pay $441.00 per month for 3 Mbps of wholesale bandwidth. That is $147.00 per month per Mbps. When I reach a demand of 100 Mbps my cost will be 30% - 50% of that. Then I must get it to my network and transport it out to the access points, now we have two or three microwave links and four to six towers at a cost of $150,000.00 - $300,000. That is about $4,000.00 per mile for equipment without recurring costs. Few understand the cost of Internet products. The cost from least to most expensive is content, bandwidth and transportation.

This is why ISPs are finding it necessary to put in place CAPS, FAPS, Fair Use Policies and such. Content providers seem to think they can sell unlimited streaming whatever to consumers while breaking the back of the provider who moves their products. Consumers seem to think that ISPs can provide unlimited usage for the same price. They could before content out-paced infrastructure. How do consumers expect that ISPs will cope with streaming content that will increase their bandwidth needs 10 times during peak usage hours? A fixed wireless network does not even have the technology or spectrum available to handle this. This is why cell providers (mobile wireless provider) have smaller CAPS. The contention-based business model that has allowed consumers to have affordable Internet connections for many years is in grave danger with the increasing amount of streaming content available today. We will not be able to expect dedicated service for the contention-based prices that we have enjoyed for years. Remember I pay at least $45.00 per month per Mbps. Even if a more fortunate ISP pays $10.00 per month per Mbps, how will he sell you a 10/2 connection for $50.00 per month? Contention-based service is how it has always been done.

With streaming content, every customer can saturate his or her connection during prime time leaving the network crippled. A smart provider plans his network's bandwidth requirements around peak usage. This means to accommodate streaming content during prime time, the ISP will be paying for about 10 times as much bandwidth as he needs the other twenty hours of the day. And this is only if his network can handle that prime time load. I do not believe any business can take a 10 times increase in the item that makes up the majority of their variable operating expenses and not pass it on to their customers. Let's take a quick look at these numbers. Suppose I have a network that can handle streaming video and I am using 100 Mbps per month. I now need 1 Gbps per month to accommodate most of my customers downloading streaming content during peak usage hours. For me that means, assuming a substantial cost reduction for a higher quantity purchase, my bandwidth cost goes from $4,500.00 per month to $33,000.00. With 700 customers (remember small rural speeds that 96% of potential customers find generous) that is $38.00 per customer for streaming content. What if many customers do not want those products and don't want to pay for them? Right now, this is the case. If half the customers do not want these services, that raises the cost to $76.00 per customer who wants streaming content. Remember I still have to plan for all the consumers or you will be very angry that your connection does not give you what you are entitled to. What if that capacity is not available in my area? While I might be able to get that much bandwidth it would take a few months of bargaining. My company and my transport provider would negotiate and my transport provider and their level one provider would negotiate. There would be installation charges. And this would be a first in my area and would attract a lot of attention. What if some households have multiple streams? I believe the idea that we will all drop our $80.00 a month cable/satellite bill and use IPTV is not a viable idea.

Now shared network resources of different technologies have different capacities. That is why we see CAPS that range from 2 GB to 250 GB. Make no mistake with one content provider's streaming content making up 20% of peak Internet traffic now and soon 50%, we will see some method of controlling use, enacted by every single provider in the future. The only thing that will differ is how high, how soon and how much it costs the consumer.

I choose to enforce thresholds from 10 - 50 GB and allow upgrades to plans with higher thresholds or decrease your connection speed for the rest of the billing period and keep your present plan to save money. More expensive business plans will offer thresholds of 150 - 300 GB and could serve as entertainment packages too, provided you are willing to pay for a dedicated symmetrical connection. Most people won't and that is good because a fixed wireless network just does not have the capacity. It does give the few who really have to have this capacity an option, which is important too. If none of these meets with your approval, you can search for a provider whose resources are less limited and better meets your consumption demands. I do not plan to collect overage charges, as this limitation is not about generating additional revenue. This is about fair use of shared resources and paying your fair share for the use of those resources. It is about preserving the quality of the Internet experience for the majority of the customers who make my existence possible. If I can make 96% of my customers happy then I can stay in business. Granted I would rather it be 98% - 99% but once I put on those customers that consume that much, it will have an adverse effect on a much larger percentage of the rest of the network.

I know the Internet is changing and ISPs will have to change too. Without fiber or coax few will be able to meet the demands. I'm located in rural American where 35% of us are just getting wireless to replace our dial-up or satellite. We are on the wrong side of the digital divide and will most likely be there for a long time, if not forever. I don't believe rural America can expect fiber for the next fifty years. At $30,000 per mile or more and 5 premises per mile, you don't have to be a rocket scientist to figure out $6,000.00 per premise won't attract a company looking for ROI. There is simply no way to make those numbers work.

And yes, the rural/wireless situation is unique. However all that uniqueness does is make the real problem easier to understand. The Internet is not ready for full-blown streaming content. Another competitor will make things even worse and that is bound to happen. Wait and see.

Guest said:

This doesn't make sense to me. I have been paying nearly 60 dollars a month for 1.5 internet for the past 7 years. I recently received a letter from this company saying that I am using too much bandwidth at over 100gigs. Are you telling me that I am not allowed to use my internet connection to it's maximum throughput? I thought that was the whole point?! What you are saying is that the entire infrastructure is designed to turn a profit by overcharging people for a service they are not going to use. That simply does not makes sense. This is how cell phones work too, I didn't like it but for some reason it seemed like a necessary evil with them.

Every marketing campaign for internet service that I have seen in the past 10 years states "unlimited". Perhaps these marketing campaigns are to blame? It's frustrating to say the least that the entire world is making a shift to internet based services (hulu, youtube, netflix, soial networking) which will eventually replace television, and these service providers who have been offering "unlimited" internet are now saying "whoa whoa whoa, unlimited didn't mean that much"

If that means it should cost more than so be it. If it costs more to sustain that speed then charge it... but charge it to "EVERYONE" or else give a cheaper price with a "limited" scheme

Some providers are already doing this, but only after years of promising unlimited bandwidth. That's not fair, those who signed contracts and are on with a current provider under a "unlimited" scheme should be grandfathered in until they change providers.

This only annoys me because I understand the concept of the top 4 percent congesting the network, but It's not fun being lied to as a consumer for years and then suddenly getting a letter stating that I am using "too much" of their unlimited service....

Also, do you think this is going to get better by cutting off that 4 percent? It's a temporary fix. A band-aid. We are the trend-setters. Within a few years a huge chunk of your 96 percent will find them setting up their wireless networks or hooking up Ethernet cables to their internet enabled televisions, ipods, gaming machines, and new computers. They will download firmware and software updates regularly, and notify their users that their favorite shows are available to watch online, and that same user will upload that video they took of their kids to youtube to share with the family. And this will happen every day.

I think the industry as a whole needs to admit that a contention based marketing scheme was never the right way to go. They all saw dollar signs in their eyes and now it is coming back to bite them in the ***. Bottom line no one should have ever offered unlimited at any speed unless they meant it. If my internet provider said 50gb at 1.5 it would have made sense. But I was sold at only the speed, not a limit.

I would love to switch providers, but their is no option in my area. I have to live with what they gave me, which I thought was a sub-standard price for the speed, but was happy enough to stay with them for 7 years. Them trying to charge me extra or drop me is unprecedented, and their honestly should be more outrage. It is up to you the provider to give what you say you give, not to find out ways to market what you do not have.

I don't know about you, but it makes me uncomfortable knowing that all those years, some grandmother who barely uses her internet was paying for part of mine, and I'm sure she'd be pretty pissed about it too.

I guess I'm just a little ticked off as a customer. Your service actually does seem pretty reasonable, I'm sure I would have had better service with your ISP. I'm stuck in Palo Cedro, CA with Frontiernet. They are pretty much the evil empire of Internet Service Providers. Relatively no support and a history of arbitrarily changing their customers contracts mid-contract.

Bottom line, I get it, it just bothers me that only now when people are using "too much" "unlimited" are these caps and surcharges and tiered pricing started cropping up. So instead of "how fast", I have to pay/worry about "how fast and how much". The pricing schemes are going to be downright confusing. If the limit is a set amount (120gig) or something like that then if I am not using it, I will arbitrarily force myself go out of the way to use all of it because I am paying for it.

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