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Americans hate their broadband – and why we care

A survey from Consumer Reports out this week provides fresh insight into how Americans feel about their internet access, just as Congress hashes out its infrastructure package . The survey reveals that almost 50 percent of Americans with broadband in their homes are dissatisfied with the price they pay (shocking, we know) — and shows that about 75 percent of Americans support municipal or community broadband “because it would ensure that broadband access is treated like other vital infrastructure such as highways, bridges, water systems, and electrical grids, allowing all Americans to have equal access to it.”

According to the survey, 32 percent of Americans without broadband internet service say it’s because it costs too much, while a quarter say it’s because broadband is not available where they live.

A larger percentage of Black and Hispanic Americans than white Americans say it’s “somewhat” or “very” difficult to afford their monthly internet costs.

In a separate survey, 40.2% of consumers said they would consider immediately switching to municipal broadband if it was made available in their city.  10.9% of consumers said they would definitely make the switch, 29.3% said they would at least try it out.

The Wall Street Journal covers the impact to carriers – the infrastructure bill could be good for them.    The bill includes the threshold of 100 megabits per second down and 20 up for new grants, which means coax and fiber can benefit from the funding.      Many analysts believe there will not be significant market changes due to this bill.      Two studies cited:

The first study, published by the Aspen Economic Strategy Group, found that universal high-speed internet service would raise labor productivity by 1.1%. Using results of a survey they designed and administered beginning in May 2020, the authors estimate that about 47.4% of full paid workdays were at home during the pandemic, up from 4.8% before the pandemic.

The second study, by George Zuo, who recently received his doctorate in economics from the University of Maryland, finds that cheaper access to the internet in low-income neighborhoods makes people more likely to be employed.

Showing the importance of broadband, the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development has new data on usage – 21.15 million in fixed broadband connections last year across those countries, with fiber now over 30%, up from 12% a decade ago.   That’s generally eating into DSL’s share, with cable being about 34%, the majority.    Subscriptions were up 14% last year from 2019. 

Why do we care?

It’s tempting to consider broadband ubiquitous or something IT services can’t address.  Clearly not the case.   There appears to be serious opportunity in municipal internet, both in deploying it and simply supporting it.      It’s also good for economies, particularly in those employment numbers… which savvy IT providers would recognize as “more users to support.”

IT providers should want this investment.   Think you can’t do anything?  Call your representative.   You can.    It’s good for your business.