Policy

NTIA: 5%-10% of U.S. Lacks ‘Basic’ Broadband Speed

2/21/2011 12:01 AM Eastern

Washington — The National Telecommunications
& Information Administration said 5% to 10%
of Americans can’t get broadband at baseline speeds
(3 to 10 Megabits per second maximum advertised
download speeds).

That is according to a new broadband adoption
study based on census bureau data and a new online,
interactive broadband map that was launched
last week.

The NTIA said broadband adoption has increased
from 63.5% to 68.2%, but said a digital divide
persists — particularly among Hispanics and
African-Americans, whose adoption rate still trails
that of Caucasians by 20%.

NTIA administrator Lawrence Strickling said the
broadband map and study supported his agency’s
emphasis on allocating stimulus funding to anchor
institutions, such as schools and libraries. Using 50
Megabits per second to 100 Mbps as a baseline speed,
the map showed that two-thirds of schools have
speeds lower than 25 Mbps, and 96% of libraries are
at speeds lower than 25 Mbps.

The map, which has more than 25 million searchable
records, breaks out broadband providers by
wired and wireless, DOCSIS 3.0 and “other” cable modems,
fiber to the home, copper and other categories.
The speeds are advertised, although the NTIA (which
teamed with the Federal Communications Commission
in creating the map), also included more than
2 million records from the FCC’s broadband speed
test that include some actual speeds by those participants.

The map does not include pricing data. Strickling
explained that prices vary widely, not just between
operators but within levels of service, and include
discount plans that “come and go.” He also said that
since the map is only updated twice a year, pricing
data would be outdated.

“We felt that, overall, it would probably be more
misleading to consumers to contain price,” Strickling
said. The map features click-through to the listed
providers, so consumers can more easily shop for
service, he said.

FCC chairman Julius Genachowski has said the
commission plans to use the map to help target funding
from the Universal Service Fund as part of its migration
to broadband subsidies, and Strickling said
he, too, expected the data to inform that effort.

September