US median broadband price is $80/month

Telecompetitor reports…

The U.S. residential median broadband price was $80 per month during the second quarter of 2017, according to research from Point Topic.

Globally, the average residential download speed was 135 Mbps and the average monthly charge was $105. The best value was provided by fiber (208 Mbps for $94) and the worst by copper (14 Mbps for $68).

I was surprised at $80/month. I suspect that Telecompetitor isn’t talking to the folks who are using their mobile hotspot for connectivity – or maybe they aren’t factoring in data caps.

It reminds me of the story of the Rock County radio station from a Task Force meeting earlier this summer. Their connection went from $1800/month to $85 once they got fiber. The $1800 appears to have been a combination of solutions, which included subscriptions with data caps.

Regardless, the discrepancy is clear.

Webinar Aug 9: Mapping Digital Inclusion Assets & Resources

NTEN is offering a free webinar…

Start Aug 9 – 10 am PT
Register here

Communities often share the same dilemma: though there are many places and programs doing their part to strengthen the digital inclusion ecosystem, information about their efforts is decentralized for residents. With a good inventory of training sessions, free WiFi locations, hardware resources, and public computing centers, residents can fully leverage local assets that already exist. In addition, practitioners can use that information to see where there might be resource gaps.

This session will provide an overview of different cases and approaches for collecting and sharing information on local public technology resources. No mapping or data collection experience is needed.

What’s broadband worth to a household annually? $1850. And to the US? $22.5B

Cards on the table, I’ve been waiting for this article to come out because I think the info is so valuable. Roberto Gallardo and Mark Rembert just released info on economic benefits experienced by a household with broadband not available to a household without it.

Here super quick answers:

  • What’s are the benefits of broadband?
    $1850 per year per household
  • So if everyone had access – what would that mean to US economy?
    $22.5 billion annually

That’s a unilateral number – you can learn more from their handy table:

Which areas are going to see the impact? Check out their map of the US – and of course I’ll focus in on Minnesota. I’m seeing a lot of maroon there, which means that the economic benefit of getting just 20 percent of the population (assuming ubiquitous coverage) using broadband is more than $10 million!!

There are two important lessons here. First – broadband access is an investment that will pay off for a household AND a community (or nation). Second – payoff is highest when people adopt broadband, which means encouraging greater use.

Learn more about methodology and impact at the Daily Yonder – or come hear more from Roberto this fall when he keynotes the Minnesota Fall Broadband Conference!

Does your broadband provider use data caps? Check this list to find out

Broadband Now has recently compiled a list of broadband providers that offer plans with data caps. There is a huge range of caps – from 4GB to 3000GB. Just about every mode of broadband transport is listed too – fiber, fixed wireless, satellite, cable and DSL. It doesn’t appear to have cellular plans listed. (So if you’re using a mobile hotspot it won’t be listed here.)

To put the caps in perspective, last year iGR reported that the average broadband data usage for a household (of 4) is 190 gigabytes per month.

Here’s Broadband Now’s explanation of data caps…

Data caps have emerged in recent years as a way for Internet providers to police bandwidth usage on their networks. Rather than letting everyone use the “pipe” as much as they want, the broadband industry in the US seems to be moving towards a “pay as you go” model where customers who use more data than other will have to pay extra for it.

Statements from Internet providers suggest that data caps are a necessary step to combat network congestion. Opponents of data caps believe that the motivation for data caps has more to do with recovering declining cable revenue or creating a roadblock for streaming services like Netflix. Whichever side you believe, the outcome is the same — data caps are becoming commonplace.

When you shop for an Internet plan, keep in mind that Internet providers often advertise their data caps as “data plans” or “data limits.”

Sitting in St Paul, I’m tempted to ask myself – who would choose a broadband provider with a data cap? Especially one with a limit significantly lower than the average used. Truth of the matter is some folks don’t have a choice. I hear from those folks often. They are out of range for provider “in town” and often only have access to a provider with a data cap.

What’s the take on Microsoft’s proposal to bring broadband to rural areas?

I wrote about the Microsoft proposal to bring broadband to rural areas when it first came out. I had some reservations – many based on satellite being the solution for the last mile. I think that leaves that last mile falling farther and farther down the digital divide. I’ve seen a few other takes on Microsoft’s plan; others have reservations too.

Susan Crawford (in Wired) points out that Microsoft is really looking at broadband for the Internet of Things…

Here’s what’s really going on: Microsoft is aiming to be the soup-to-nuts provider of Internet of Things devices, software, and consulting services to zillions of local and national governments around the world. Need to use energy more efficiently, manage your traffic lights, target preventative maintenance, and optimize your public transport—but you’re a local government with limited resources and competence? Call Microsoft. …

Now let’s get behind those laudatory headlines in the Times and Post. Microsoft doesn’t want to have to rely on existing mobile data carriers to execute those plans. Why? Because the carriers will want a pound of flesh—a percentage—in exchange for shipping data generated by Microsoft devices from Point A to Point B. These costs can become very substantial over zillions of devices in zillions of cities. The carriers have power because, in many places, they are the only ones allowed to use airwave frequencies—spectrum—under licenses from local governments for which they have paid hundreds of millions of dollars. To eliminate that bottleneck, it will be good to have unlicensed spectrum available everywhere, and cheap chipsets and devices available that can opportunistically take advantage of that spectrum. …

And hustled is what we will be if we believe that Microsoft’s plans, by themselves, will fix America’s desperate internet access problem in rural areas. You see, while using white spaces will certainly be better than nothing in rural locations, those guard bands simply aren’t wide enough to allow for genuine, world-class internet data transmission to human beings in living rooms. Not possible. Not enough bandwidth. True, where commercial mobile radio (like AT&T and Verizon) isn’t available at all, white spaces will definitely help. You could use it for Internet of Things applications that are very very useful, as in advanced agriculture—don’t need to send much data to do that. But you would never use a white spaces transmission service alone if you didn’t have to. You’d end up with maybe a handful of Mbps or even less—hundreds of times less than what people with fiber would be getting. White spaces will definitely be another arrow in the quiver used by local fixed wireless operations, but they are no kind of substitute for actual great consumer internet access in rural areas.

From a discussion with Harold Feld on Community Broadband Network’s Podcast

And again, it’s important to recognize that TV White Space isn’t so much a technology as a bunch of frequencies we’re opening up so that people can develop new technologies. Right now, and again, it’s important to keep in mind there’s a difference between speeds you get in the laboratory, versus speeds that you can actually get in the real world. Right now, I think what they’re talking about is putting out networks that would operate at 45 megabits per second, symmetrical both ways, which, in a lot of rural areas, is much better than what you now. Even for a lot of folks in urban areas, if you do it cheaply and affordably, that’s better than the options that are available at much higher prices from the cable companies. The problem is wireless is very complicated, and we’re talking about devices that are operating at comparatively very low power. Television stations operate at 50,000 watts. Your TV White Space device is operating at one watt for the fixed devices, even less than that in microwatts for the more mobile devices when those come out. So, the other thing that people have to keep in mind is your speed or your broadband network isn’t just about the wireless part, it also then depends a lot on the back haul, what’s available. If you’re using wireless to bring it back to some place where it will land on fiber for back haul, then every hop cost to you moves from one tower to another, costs you more speed. So, we’re probably talking initially things that are more in the range of 10 megabits per second down with potentially the same or slightly less up. So, initially, this is going to be good for people who don’t really have anything, and it will give them stuff that’s useful, but not up to where it needs to be. Now, again, the technology’s going to keep getting better as it moves along, and the Microsoft folks have said, “We’re depending on a bunch of other inputs; we’re depending on the FCC doing things to make it possible to use the spectrum more effectively; we’re depending on finding ways to do things like getting fiber out, not in the communities to serve the communities, at least close enough that we can use it as back haul for the networks that are set up with these TV White Space devices.” So, everybody should keep in mind — Listeners should keep in mind that we’re at the beginning here. In rural areas, you have a lot of open TV White Spaces, because you have a lot of unused channels. That gives you a lot of capacity so you can get better speed on the wireless side, but that’s offset by having, in a lot of places, still needing to use copper, or some kind of wireless for you back haul. So, that drops the parent speed. I would say look for this to be more like eight to ten megabits locally, at least in the first generation deployments.

Craig Settle via Daily Yonder points out that local communities must have some ownership …

What’s really at issue here is that if communities are not holding the driving wheel on broadband projects and they don’t own or at least rent the vehicle, they are ultimately a passenger in someone else’s ride. At some point, the needs of the network owner could trump the needs of the community.

Odasz recalls that, “we have not seen Microsoft do any meaningful outreach to rural America as in terms of meeting the particular web-based challenges that these communities have. Microsoft’s TVWS strategy relies heavily on incumbents and politicians, which historically have fallen short on resolving rural broadband needs.”

Odasz believes that the private sector is all in favor of training that could lead to jobs such as programming or working in a data center. However, they fall short when teaching displaced workers in manufacturing or mining how to become e-commerce entrepreneurs, or how to use broadband to improve in their current blue-collar or professional Jobs. The politics of communication regulation have led politicians to support “incumbents” – the legacy telephone companies – rather than new approaches. Programs to help constituents defray the cost of broadband can be hit or miss.

Similar to Google’s entry into broadband, the Microsoft TVWS announcement is good news for getting infrastructure into more places, particularly within rural communities. The jury is still out has to how much this new connectivity will improve local economies, education, and healthcare for those in the communities who need broadband most.

Help us determine the community ROI of better broadband

Bill Coleman and I are hitting the road to talk to a few communities about their success with broadband. Our purpose is to put our arms around what are the community benefits of better broadband. We often talk about the business ROI (return on investment) and there is no question that it is difficult to make a business case to see a ROI if you are only looking at metrics for the broadband provider.

But there are community benefits. Just last month the MN Broadband Task Force heard from the radio station in Rock County that their new fiber connection costs $85 per month. Their old connection was close to $1800 per month!

It doesn’t take too many stories like that to help community leaders and policymakers recognize the community benefits of better broadband.

I’m looking for more Minnesota stories like the radio station. If you have a good story on saving money or earning more money or saving time or other tangible benefits – please let me know by competing the Broadband Benefits to the Community survey.

New MN broadband map are out; see which counties rank highest?

The Office of Broadband Development has posted new maps and stats on broadband access on their site. You can download an Excel spreadsheet with the info from the site. (Want a comparison? I tracked the same info last September when the maps and data came out.)

Here are the top ranking counties for access to 25 Mbps down and 3 Mbps up (25/3):

  • 1              Red Lake              99.99
  • 2              Rock      99.93
  • 3              Ramsey 99.74
  • 4              Clearwater          99.58
  • 5              Beltrami               99.38
  • 6              Stevens 99.22
  • 7              Lac qui Parle       99.14
  • 8              Swift      98.88
  • 9              Hennepin            98.86
  • 10           Dakota  97.48

And bottom ranking:

  • 78           Traverse              44.68
  • 79           Todd      44.22
  • 80           Fillmore                43.76
  • 81           Redwood            41.80
  • 82           Pine       39.70
  • 83           Norman               37.67
  • 84           Kanabec               34.48
  • 85           Marshall               33.49
  • 86           Aitkin    28.01
  • 87           Yellow Medicine               20.58

And here’s the full table, looking at access by speed and rank based on 25/3 stats: (Hard to format on the blog – you can also access as a spreadsheet):

Rank at 25/3 goal County Name Percent Broadband (1Gbps/1Gbps) Percent Wireline Broadband (25Mbps/3Mbps) Percent Wireline Broadband (100Mbps/20Mbps)
1 Red Lake 48.01 99.99 83.00
2 Rock 0.00 99.93 99.93
3 Ramsey 16.79 99.74 99.33
4 Clearwater 89.30 99.58 89.30
5 Beltrami 82.25 99.38 95.87
6 Stevens 6.74 99.22 96.74
7 Lac qui Parle 0.00 99.14 99.14
8 Swift 0.00 98.88 53.63
9 Hennepin 29.29 98.86 98.31
10 Dakota 15.48 97.48 64.10
11 Big Stone 0.00 97.44 97.44
12 Anoka 9.38 97.30 95.55
13 Brown 0.00 96.28 72.55
14 Washington 5.79 95.99 94.33
15 Cook 0.00 94.50 94.50
16 Lake 94.12 94.30 94.30
17 Scott 4.80 93.77 87.27
18 Olmsted 3.69 93.27 33.20
19 Pennington 11.48 91.78 90.75
20 Polk 34.15 91.74 84.88
21 Wadena 47.43 88.66 47.43
22 Carver 0.36 88.28 80.64
23 Crow Wing 35.33 87.76 39.69
24 Clay 36.37 87.49 82.17
25 Rice 0.00 87.37 29.81
26 Hubbard 45.99 87.36 46.37
27 Benton 0.00 86.99 13.29
28 Steele 0.00 86.42 49.54
29 Winona 80.70 85.71 81.83
30 Wright 14.34 85.62 29.75
31 Sherburne 0.17 84.55 28.17
32 Nicollet 1.79 83.42 32.06
33 Stearns 4.66 83.20 37.61
34 McLeod 0.00 83.10 58.03
35 Freeborn 9.49 82.99 34.54
36 St. Louis 5.87 82.33 38.44
37 Wilkin 72.21 80.84 80.84
38 Pipestone 12.47 79.73 79.73
39 Itasca 55.68 78.73 76.30
40 Mower 0.00 78.39 23.79
41 Faribault 0.09 77.71 41.05
42 Blue Earth 0.00 77.51 16.70
43 Goodhue 50.42 76.74 55.43
44 Douglas 28.52 76.33 28.60
45 Nobles 0.00 76.19 72.31
46 Grant 39.89 75.73 39.93
47 Kandiyohi 0.00 75.34 8.05
48 Waseca 0.00 73.30 73.07
49 Mahnomen 8.60 72.42 13.01
50 Dodge 40.45 72.24 69.54
51 Lyon 4.14 71.91 65.49
52 Chippewa 0.00 71.77 24.80
53 Houston 33.34 71.28 66.63
54 Le Sueur 0.00 71.16 68.67
55 Wabasha 59.56 70.45 61.59
56 Becker 5.78 69.52 6.66
57 Morrison 32.89 69.24 40.93
58 Cass 26.74 68.94 34.02
59 Jackson 0.00 68.79 68.79
60 Koochiching 7.50 68.56 68.55
61 Watonwan 0.00 65.76 64.80
62 Kittson 3.46 65.62 3.46
63 Chisago 0.00 65.15 62.32
64 Cottonwood 0.00 62.03 19.12
65 Roseau 0.00 61.85 49.69
66 Carlton 0.00 61.27 52.52
67 Pope 10.15 60.54 23.66
68 Martin 0.00 55.64 54.06
69 Otter Tail 1.25 55.43 2.07
70 Isanti 0.02 54.33 49.28
71 Sibley 31.97 53.60 53.15
72 Lincoln 0.11 53.44 39.21
73 Renville 0.00 53.10 49.94
74 Murray 1.88 50.90 50.76
75 Meeker 0.00 49.50 37.75
76 Lake of the Woods 0.00 48.08 48.08
77 Mille Lacs 0.00 47.57 47.07
78 Traverse 4.08 44.68 44.68
79 Todd 2.84 44.22 2.86
80 Fillmore 6.70 43.76 42.81
81 Redwood 0.00 41.80 33.54
82 Pine 0.00 39.70 36.95
83 Norman 20.52 37.67 20.52
84 Kanabec 0.00 34.48 26.59
85 Marshall 5.97 33.49 28.10
86 Aitkin 2.66 28.01 14.17
87 Yellow Medicine 0.00 20.58 19.44