The U.S. Federal Communications Commission’s National Broadband Plan calls for providing at least 100 million U.S. homes with “affordable access” to actual download speeds of at least 100 megabits per second and actual upload speeds of at least 50 megabits per second, without setting a specific time frame.
At the time both initiatives were launched, the goals might have seemed farfetched. In 2010, according to Akamai, typical U.S. and European access speeds were about 4 Mbps, though some studies showed higher speeds.
That we now have major Internet service providers talking about, and in some cases, building networks capable of supplying gigabit Internet access shows how fast supplier thinking has changed since 2010, and how fast higher speeds are being made available, despite a persistent sense in some quarters that progress is way too slow.
In 2002, most U.S. households did not even have access at 1.5 Mbps. By 2013, according to Akamai, typical U.S. speeds were about 10 Mbps, showing roughly an order of magnitude increase over a decade. By that metric, 100 Mbps should be what a typical user buys by about 2024.
The European Commission’s Connected Continent initiative reports that broadband availability now is 100 percent across the EC region, with consumers having multiple choices of service providers.
Access speed, though, remains an issue. People able to use 4G mobile Internet access also rose to 59 percent, up from 26 percent a year ago.
Fixed network Internet access operating at 30 Mbps or higher is available to 62 percent of the EU population, up from 54 percent a year ago and just 29 percent in 2010.
Fast broadband is already available to 90 percent of homes or more in Belgium, Denmark, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom.
As you would guess, the biggest problems are rural areas, where 18 percent of rural households have access high-speed broadband access.
The current objective is downstream speeds of 30 Mbps for everyone in the EC region and at least 50 percent of European households subscribing to Internet connections above 100 Mbps by 2020.
Those goals were announced in 2010.
Standard fixed broadband now covers 95.5 percent of EC homes, while rural coverage of standard fixed broadband was 83 percent at the end of 2012, to an EC broadband report reporting status up to July 2013.
Connections capable of providing at least 30 Mbps download cover 54 percent of EU homes. Cable has the highest coverage, at 39 percent of homes, followed by very high speed digital subscriber line at 25 percent and fiber to the home at 12 percent of homes.
What in the United Kingdom is called “superfast” (30 Mbps or faster) access accounts for 20 percent of all fixed broadband lines in the EC, as opposed to 12 percent a year ago. Some 57 percent of such connections are supplied by cable TV operators.
In fact, new entrants provide 77.5 percent of faster connections.
About two percent of homes buy fixed network service operating at 100 Mbps or faster.
About 15 percent of homes buy service at 30 Mbps or faster.
Though consumer behavior might have suggested there was little demand for 50 Mbps or 100 Mbps Internet access in the past, the primary reason for limited demand was the cost. As gigabit access network pricing has been redefined, to about $70 or $80 a month in the U.S. market, for example, demand is at least as high as for today’s more common 20 Mbps to 40 Mbps services.