The FCC has just released its latest report on the sate of broadband in the US of A (PDF alert), and the results are… less than encouraging, and for a number of reasons. The agency found that around two-thirds of Americans’ broadband connections don’t actually qualify as broadband under its definition. (Broadband to the FCC is 4 mbps down/1 mbps up.) What’s sorta odd is that this isn’t a result of the lack of infrastructure or anything, but a result of people choosing low speed plans.
The data used in the study is accurate as of December 31, 2009, so any changes between then and now won’t show up till the next report.
There’s a few things going on here. For one, the Free Press, sorta of a watchdog group, says (PDF alert) the FCC really ought to be measuring things like broadband availability and not broadband subscription. The argument is that it gives a better idea of the state of broadband when you measure actual availability rather than what people happen to subscribe to.
But there’s value in knowing that—subscription rates—as well.
I don’t have to tell you guys, the blog-reading tech enthusiasts, that bandwidth-heavy services have really taken off this year. Streaming Netflix is practically embedded in refrigerators at this point, and music services like Rdio and Pandora (and Spotify, but that’s Europe-only right now) are becoming more and more “normal,” if that makes any sense. Then you look at the number of people playing online video games with Xbox Live or PSN, to say nothing of new services like OnLive…
The point is, we’re reaching the point where there’s actually a legitimate use for a fast broadband connection. I mean, I pay for a 101 mbps down/15 mbps u connection, but it’s been nearly impossible to saturate with legitimate traffic (or otherwise). So if we have an idea of what broadband subscription was like in the past, we can then see how people moved to faster plans as the aforementioned services became more commonplace.
Now we just have to ensure that ISPs don’t start playing favorites when it comes to actually delivering all that data.