Most “broadband” connections are no such thing

According to the Federal Communications Commission, the majority of American “broadband” users are not actually receiving broadband speed.

That’s because the FCC currently defines broadband as requiring a download speed of at least 4Mbps and an upload speed of 1Mbps. In total, 68 percent of broadband connections in the US fall short of this speed.

The figures, which have just been published in an FCC report (PDF) but deal with the situation as of 31 December last year, were collected from internet providers across the country. (These are the actual nationwide figures, or as close to it as a government agency can collect, rather than being extrapolated from a sample group as with opinion polls and surveys.) The data covers the packages subscribers have taken up, rather than the maximum speeds on offer in any area.

The FCC found that 30% of users had a download speed of more than 6 Mbps or more, 58% had a speed between 3 and 6 Mbps, and 12% had speeds below 3Mbps. The respective figures for uploads were 12% with more than 1.5 Mbps, 39% with 768 Kbps to 1.5 Mbps, and 49% with less than 768 kbps. All the figures are based on the maximum speed of the package a subscriber is on, meaning the actual speed they get may well often be lower.

Taking the 3 Mbps downstream/768 Kbps upstream threshold, Massachussets is the most broadband heavy state, with 68% of households having such a connection, while North Carolina is at the bottom of the list at 8%.

The figures also showed that consumers still aren’t getting much competition when it comes to decent speeds. As shown in the graph above, almost one in four people live in an area where there is only one provider offering a package of at least 3Mbps download and 768 kbps upload (which is below the FCC standard for “broadband.”)

Once you raise the bar to 6Mbps download and 1.5 Mbps upload, 57% of people only have one possible provider, while 19% don’t even have the option of getting such a speed. Adding in companies who offer mobile broadband makes virtually no difference to those percentages.

And anyone who think “everyone’s got broadband” is under a misapprehension. As of the end of last year, only 60% of homes nationwide had a fixed-line (ie not mobile) internet connection with at least a 200 Kbps speed in one direction, a figure that drops to just 43% in Mississippi.

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