Thursday, February 11, 2021
Headlines Daily Digest
Stories From Abroad
Traffic on broadband networks rose by more than half and average broadband usage approached one-half a terabyte at the end of 2020, according to the Q4 2020 OpenVault Broadband Insights (OBVI) report. Per-subscriber average data usage for 4Q20 was 482.6 GB per month, a 40% increase over the 344 GB consumed in 4Q 2019 and a 26% increase over the 3Q20 average of 383.8. At the same time, broadband providers saw subscriber increases of 6.5%, creating a net effect of 51% more broadband traffic. 4Q20 median usage rose 54% year-over-year, to 293.8 GB per month from 190.7 GB in 2019.
In addition to record growth, the 4Q20 OVBI also shows general trends that became evident during the pandemic. OpenVault data shows that once average monthly usage jumped almost 47% in April of 2020, trend lines of rising and falling usage almost uniformly followed pre-pandemic norms, albeit at this new, higher level. The report also shows the continued growth of upstream usage; in 4Q20, upstream consumption was 31 GB/month, an increase of 63% over 4Q19.
The 4Q20 report also spotlights the continued effects of power users on broadband networks. Among the most recent data:
- 14.1% of subscribers now consume more than 1 TB of data per month. That represents a 94% rise – 61% in 4Q20 alone – from the 4Q19 average of 7.25%.
- Extreme power users, those consuming more than 2 TB per month, increased by 184% year over year, from 0.76% in 2019 to 2.2% at the end of last year. Similar to the 1 TB data, 120% of that increase occurred between Q320 and Q420.
- Providers offering unlimited, flat-rate billing packages saw nearly 30% more power users than those with usage-based billing plans.
- More than half (53.6%) of all subscribers now consume more than the former power user threshold of 250 GB per month.
“The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic was complete and has forever changed broadband usage patterns,” the report notes. “Network operators now must contend with significantly higher average bandwidth usage, with implications for both network management and revenue. Network operators should evaluate all network management options to ensure they deliver the best customer experience while maximizing profitability.”
A partnership between Quintillion and Arctic Slope Telephone Association Cooperative (ASTAC) is bringing 25/3 Mbps broadband service to Utqiagvik, Alaska, the northernmost point in the US. Since January 2018, ASTAC has installed over 62 miles of fiber networks connecting almost 2,200 locations to fiber, while Quintillion has laid over 1,600 miles of cable off the Alaskan Coast and down the Dalton Highway. According to ASTAC, 85% of North Slope residences now have an end-to-end fiber-optic broadband connection when coupled with Quintillion’s subsea fiber optic cable network. [insert picture of editor scratching his head... "but 25/3?"] Customers can take advantage of a suspend feature to pause and restart their data usage throughout the billing cycle to self-manage their usage. The Home Internet 25+ plan is $75 less per month than an existing internet plan.
More fans of network neutrality rules have asked the Federal Communication Commission to return its bright-line rules against blocking, throttling and paid prioritization, saying eliminated those rules has negatively impacted connectivity at a time -- during the COVID-19 pandemic -- when connectivity is a key public interest priority. That came in a petition for reconsideration from Common Cause, the Benton Institute for Broadband & Society, the National Hispanic Media Coalition, New America’s Open Technology Institute, the United Church of Christ, OC Inc., and Free Press, all of whom opposed the FCC's Restoring Internet Freedom order under former FCC chairman Ajit Pai, which eliminated those rules and essentially took the FCC out of the internet access regulation business. The petition argues the FCC's deregulation "weakened the FCC’s legal authority to provide low-income households with affordable broadband through the Lifeline program at a time when the COVID-19 pandemic has made the need for connectivity greater than ever."
If it wasn’t obvious before, the coronavirus pandemic makes clear the need for an open internet with broadband access for all Americans. But don’t hold your breath waiting for the broadband industry to see the light on control of the internet. AT&T, Comcast, Verizon, T-Mobile and other major Internet service providers aren’t backing away from their goal of raking in billions by charging websites more for priority access to the internet. The providers are hoping Republicans will regain the White House in 2024 and once again roll back net neutrality provisions.
Congress should act to strengthen net neutrality and end the policy swings from one presidential administration to the next. But that isn’t likely as long as Senate Democrats lack enough votes to block a Republicans filibuster and the broadband industry, which has spent more than $1 billion lobbying members of Congress in the last 10 years, remains a potent political force. So that leaves it up to the Federal Communications Commission and, thanks to the Justice Department action Feb 8, states such as California to protect consumers and small businesses from being controlled by a small group of broadband companies that put profits before the needs of internet users.
On Feb 11, the House Commerce Committee will mark up portions of the pandemic relief package falling within its jurisdiction. And lawmakers may fold in provisions aimed at boosting a key Federal Communications Commission subsidy program to help students, a top priority for lawmakers anxious about the online learning gap. “We’re going to hopefully address E-Rate,” said Committee Chairman Pallone. “The committee’s top priority, really, is to combat and crush the virus.” But Committee Ranking Member Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) says Democrats shouldn’t rush to mark up without first negotiating across the aisle.
No one would deny that Internet access has dramatically improved across much of Cuba in the last decade. But everyday Cubans without regular access to reliable Internet still struggle. The 1,095 public Wi-Fi hotspots across Cuba serve as a vital resource to connect the largest island in the Caribbean with the rest of the world. Of the various ways Cubans connect to the Internet, Wi-Fi hotspots continue to be the most popular method. It is worth noting, however, the number of Cubans who must rely on public Wi-Fi hotspots as their primary (or singular) option is dwindling.
According to the International Telecommunications Union, only 58 percent of Cubans had Internet access in 2018 and only 18 percent of the population had home-based Internet access. According to Freedom House, Cuba has one of the lowest connectivity rates in the Western Hemisphere—perhaps no surprise given that Cuban mobile data plans only launched in December 2018. Between 2015 and 2019, hourly Wi-Fi connectivity rates dropped from $4.50/hour to $1/hour. This lower price—combined with an increased number of Wi-Fi hotspots, cyber cafes, home-based Internet connections, and mobile data packages—contributed to a dramatic increase in Internet connectivity for Cubans.
It's still unclear if Cuba's Internet efforts can continue to shrink the country's digital divide, how quickly it will reach the outskirts of the country, and what impact increasing Internet access will have on its population long-term. For now, only one thing is certain: things are changing when it comes to Internet access in Cuba. And most residents are thrilled with progress thus far and eagerly anticipating even more connectivity.
Benton (www.benton.org) provides the only free, reliable, and non-partisan daily digest that curates and distributes news related to universal broadband, while connecting communications, democracy, and public interest issues. Posted Monday through Friday, this service provides updates on important industry developments, policy issues, and other related news events. While the summaries are factually accurate, their sometimes informal tone may not always represent the tone of the original articles. Headlines are compiled by Kevin Taglang (headlines AT benton DOT org) and Robbie McBeath (rmcbeath AT benton DOT org) — we welcome your comments.
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