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Internet Use Vital to Rural Economy, USDA Report Finds

WASHINGTON, March 3, 2009 – Most rural Americans do not subscribe to high speed internet services, according to an Agriculture Department report released last week.

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WASHINGTON, March 3, 2009 – Most rural Americans do not subscribe to high speed internet services, according to an Agriculture Department report released last week.

“Rural Broadband at a Glance,” published last Thursday by the Agriculture Department’s Economic Resource Service, cites Census Bureau data that showed a 12 percent gap in in-home internet access between urban households and their rural counterparts. Of urban households, 64 percent have broadband versus 52 percent for rural households.

Still, most of those rural households can only access the Internet through a dial-up connection, said the report. That leaves them unable to use many rich content applications – or even most anti-virus software.

The number of broadband service providers operating in rural areas increased rapidly between 2000 and 2006, said the report. The Federal Communications Commission said that there has been a 60 percent increase in the availability of broadband between 2000 and 2006.

However, the FCC source data used to calculate broadband availability determines such availability by the number of providers within a given zip code.

The methodology has been criticized for its tendency to overcount broadband penetration, particularly in rural areas. Within rural areas, ZIP codes can be quite large. As a result, the statement that broadband services are available somewhere within a ZIP code does not necessarily reflect its availability everywhere within the ZIP code.

The lack of more granular data makes it difficult to truly determine the availability rural broadband, said the report.

Still, the researchers found government policies designed to increase the penetration of high-speed access – like the FCC’s Schools and Libraries program and the Agriculture Department’s telemedicine and distance learning programs – have increased availability and sometimes made prices more competitive, said the report.

Those programs focus on providing access to individuals instead of targeting households or business owners. Meanwhile, rural businesses like farming have adopted internet at an amazing rate, said the report.

Even without broadband access, the Internet allows farmers to reduce the cost of reaching larger markets, enables more efficient commercial relationships, and increase competition among banks, shippers, and other far-flung business that service rural America.

And despite the problems of relying on dial-up access, rural Americans are still hungry consumers of internet services. Increased access to broadband could bring important benefits to both the economy of rural America and its residents’ quality of life, the report said.

In 2005, 30 percent of farmers used the Internet for business purposes. But only two years later, that number had more than doubled to 63 percent of farmers. Despite the lack of widespread rural broadband, online wholesale markets for farm products was only 3 percent of that total market in 2003. Those 3 percentage points account for $3.7 billion in trade.

And the percentage of all wholesale transactions conducted online was 13 percent, for $386 billion. And as broadband has spread, the report found, the relatively few rural retail businesses with broadband access have used it to increase operational effectiveness and exploit market niches.

Quality of life is also improved by access to rural broadband, the report said. Online purchases now replace the once-common Sears and Roebuck catalog, and broadband facilitates price discovery and consumer information gathering, particularly in the real estate and automobile markets.

Broadband access has other benefits for rural Americans in a declining economy, the report said. Besides allowing people to find jobs through teleworking, the authors found that broadband allows access to health care by use of telemedicine programs, reducing costs and travel time.

And researchers found high-speed Internet facilitates greater civic participation and community engagement, including access to government services that increasingly are migrating from paper to online forms.

Broadband Breakfast Club

March Meeting: Broadband Competition: Do We Have It, and How Do We Get More of It?

BroadbandCensus.com presents the March meeting of the Broadband Breakfast Club at Old Ebbitt Grill on Tuesday, March 10, 2009, at 8 a.m. Because of the Commerce Department/Agriculture Department/FCC Public Meeting on broadband stimulus from 10 a.m. to 11:30 a.m., the Broadband Breakfast Club will adjourn at 9:30 a.m.

  • NEW! – James Baller, President of Baller Herbst Law Group, will provide a brief summary of the progress of the U.S. Broadband Coalition
  • Art Brodsky, Communication Director, Public Knowledge
  • Kathleen Ham, Vice President, Federal Regulatory, T-Mobile USA
  • Brent Olson, Assistant Vice President, Public Policy, AT&T
  • Emmett O’Keefe, Director, Federal Public Policy, Amazon.com
  • Scott Wallsten, Vice President for Research and Senior Fellow, Technology Policy Institute

Webcasts of the Broadband Breakfast Club Produced in Partnership with:

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Broadband Data

Ookla Has Verizon as Fastest Q1 Fixed Provider, T-Mobile Takes Top Spot for Mobile

T-Mobile was also named the most consistent mobile operator and topped 5G download speeds.

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Image of Speedtest from May 2017 by Daniel Aleksandersen used with permission

WASHINGTON, April 18, 2022 – A market report released Friday by performance metrics web service Ookla named Verizon the fastest fixed broadband provider in the U.S. during the first quarter of 2022, and T-Mobile as the fastest mobile operator during the same period.

Verizon had a median download speed of 184.36 Mbps, edging out Comcast Xfinity’s speed of 179.12 Mbps. T-Mobile’s median mobile speed was 117.83 Mbps.

Verizon had the lowest latency of all providers, according to Ookla, well ahead of Xfinity’s fourth place ranking, yet sat at third for consistency behind both Xfinity and Spectrum.

T-Mobile was also the most consistent mobile operator during the first quarter, achieving an Ookla consistency score of 88.3 percent, which along with median download speed represented an increase from the fourth quarter of 2021.

The company also achieved the fastest median 5G download speed, coming in at 191.12 Mbps.

Verizon also notably increased its 5G download speed from its Q4 metric, attributed in part to the turning on of new C-band spectrum in January following deployment delays and protest from airlines. For mobile speeds, it stood in second behind T-Mobile, bumping AT&T to a standing of third. These rankings were the same for mobile measures of latency and consistency.

Yet on 5G availability, AT&T remains ahead of Verizon.

The Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra came in as the fastest popular device in the country, running at 116.33 Mbps.

Ookla is a sponsor of Broadband Breakfast.

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Broadband Data

FCC’s Rosenworcel: Broadband Nutrition Labels Will Create New Generation of Informed Buyers

The FCC hopes companies will make it easier for consumers to choose a broadband plan that fits their needs.

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Photo of Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel speaking at the Mobile World Conference 2022 in Barcelona

WASHINGTON, March 11, 2022 – The Federal Communications Commission’s broadband nutrition labels will usher in a new era where buyers have simple information about what they’re buying, agency Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel said Friday.

Consumers should know what they’re signing up for when they spend hundreds “or even thousands” of dollars per year for internet service. She was speaking at Friday’s commission hearing on its so-called broadband nutrition label initiative.

The hearing comes on top of a public comment period on the initiative. Many providers are pushing for more flexible regulations on compliance.

When consumers choose a broadband provider for their household, Rosenworcel said may people make decisions with “sometimes incomplete and inaccurate information.”

“The problem for broadband consumers isn’t a total lack of information, but there’s loads of fine print,” Rosenworcel said. “It can be difficult to know exactly what we are paying for and these disclosures are not consistent from carrier to carrier,” which makes comparing prices and services harder and more time-consuming for consumers.

The comments built on other recent speeches by Rosenworcel promoting the initiative, encouraging state attorneys general’s ability to enforce companies’ commitments through their states’ consumer protection statutes.

The FCC began a plan in 2015 for broadband labels that was voluntary. The new initiative directed by last year’s bipartisan infrastructure law makes this effort mandatory for broadband providers.

Matt Sayre, managing director of cross sector economic development firm Onward Eugene, said residents in rural Oregon would benefit from simple information when considering broadband providers. During a time where dial-up and satellite-based offerings were primarily available, Sayre said his neighbors “never used terms like latency or packet loss.”

“These are important aspects of good internet service, but not easily understood by most people,” Sayre said. “Citizens understood they needed better service but were uncertain about what tier of service they needed. This is where broadband labels can be very helpful.”

The hearing was the agency’s first on the initiative.

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Broadband Data

Small ISP Organizations Push FCC for Flexibility on Broadband Label Compliance

Advocates say strict compliance requirements may economically harm small providers.

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Photo of outgoing WISPA CEO of Claude Aiken from April 2018 by New America used with permission

WASHINGTON, March 11, 2022 ­­– In comments submitted to the Federal Communications Commission Wednesday, organizations representing small internet providers are pushing for flexible regulations on compliance with a measure that requires clear reporting of broadband service aspects to consumers.

The measure was adopted at a late January meeting by the commission, mandating that providers list their pricing and speed information about services in the format of a “broadband nutrition label” that mimics a food nutrition label. Congress’ bipartisan infrastructure bill enacted in the fall required that the FCC adopt such policy.

The organizations that submitted comments Wednesday say that strict compliance requirements for the new measure may economically harm small providers.

Among those leading the charge are trade associations Wireless Internet Service Providers Association, NTCA – The Rural Broadband Association and America’s Communications Association as well as provider Lumen Technologies.

In comments, limited resources of smaller providers were cited as factors which could disadvantage them in terms of complying with the measure to the FCC’s standards and several organizations asked for small providers to be given extra time to comply.

In separate comments, internet provider Lumen said that the FCC must make multiple changes to its approach if it is to “avoid imposing new obligations that arbitrarily impose excessive costs on providers and undermine other policy goals.”

Last month, FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel said that she looks forward to increased coordination between the FCC and state attorneys general for the enforcement of the measure.

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