Municipal Broadband 2022: Barriers Remain an Issue in 17 States

For decades, municipal broadband operations have been subject to a minefield of restrictions and barriers designed to make the prospect of establishing or maintaining a community broadband network costly, difficult, and unsustainable. There are currently 17 states in total that have restrictive legislation against municipal broadband networks in the US.

Broadband Pricing Changes: 2016 to 2022

Examining pricing data from fifty national and regional providers, we’ve found that prices have decreased across all major download speeds (25Mbps up to 1Gbps+) and technologies (cable, fiber, DSL and fixed wireless). This study utilizes average pricing of broadband internet plans for 50 providers since 2016. Prices have fallen since 2016, with the highest speed plans falling the most. When looking at the average price for internet in each speed bucket starting in the first quarter of 2016 compared to the fourth quarter of 2021:

7.1 Million Households Enrolled in Emergency Broadband Benefit, Adoption Varies Significantly by State

The federal government launched the Emergency Broadband Benefit in February 2021 to provide low-income households with a $50 monthly discount on their internet bill as part of a multi-pronged approach to reduce the digital divide, which is a function of both access to a wired high-speed internet service provider and the affordability of service. According to the Universal Service Administrative Company, enrollment in the Emergency Broadband Benefit reached 7.1 million households in November 2021 (up from 6.1 million in October).

BroadbandNow Estimates Availability for all 50 States; Confirms that More than 42 Million Americans Do Not Have Access to Broadband

In 2020, we manually checked availability of more than 11,000 addresses using Federal Communications Commission Form 477 data as the “source of truth.” Based on the results, we estimated that 42 million Americans do not have the ability to purchase broadband internet. In 2021, we expanded our study, manually checking availability of terrestrial broadband internet (wired or fixed wireless) for more than 58,000 addresses. In all, we checked more than 110,000 address-provider combinations using the FCC Form 477 data as the “source of truth”.

The State of Broadband in America, Q1 2021

Access to low-priced broadband internet has increased significantly over the last year.  For the first time, more than 3 of 4 of Americans (77%) have access to low-priced wired broadband plans compared to 50% in 2020 Q1.  A low-priced broadband plan costs $60 per month or less (excluding promotional pricing), and has minimum speeds of 25 Mbps download / 3 Mbps upload. Low-priced plans are not as common at higher speeds.

Municipal Broadband Is Restricted In 18 States Across The US In 2021

Municipal broadband has been obstructed in many states over the years. There are currently 18 states in total that have restrictive legislation against municipal broadband networks in the US. 

The State of Broadband in America, Q4 2020

In the fourth quarter of 2020, many broadband internet service providers introduced or expanded low-priced broadband plans, which the authors define as $60 or less per month, resulting in 70% of Americans having access to low-priced internet at speeds of 25 mbps download / 3 mbps upload and 30% at the higher threshold of 100 mbps download / 25 upload. Ninety-four ISPs added low-priced plans that were not available in Q3. National providers, such as CenturyLink and Xfinity were among them. Just 52% of Americans had access to low-priced plans in the fourth quarter of 2019.

Massive Gigabit “Coverage” Increase Highlights How Unreliable FCC Broadband Data Can Be

Progress on gigabit deployment in the US has been greatly exaggerated. This is true for the state of the internet in general. However, the gigabit landscape is a subsection worth examining more closely, as it is the connectivity threshold that will be required to solve the speed and functionality divides of the near future. The Federal Communications Commission claims that gigabit availability has ballooned from 4% in 2016 to 84% in 2020. Our own estimates, however, show that gigabit plan access has actually gone from 2.4% in the same year to 56% in 2020.