And two of those are wireless broadband providers who don't actually service my house (although they do service within a mile of me). So really I have two choices -- AT&T and Comcast. And I'm one of the lucky ones that has two choices. And even luckier that one of those is Gigabit.
So even for my house, with Gigabit service, the FCC report is still grossly overstated. I can't imagine how bad their data in rural areas is.
In reality, I have two: Charter (a/k/a Spectrum, a/k/a TWC) at 200/20, and Verizon ADSL at 5/1. Confusingly, the 5/1 hookup is actually more expensive than 200/20.
Is that corruption, incompetence or apathy?
Unfortunately, they probably also lacks the funding to provide an auditor for those reports, and I bet there's no regulation requiring the industry to have an FCC auditor for them.
In other words, Congress doesn't care how accurate the report actually is.
There isn't an easy answer.
...this is the state of broadband for semi-rural America.
[EDIT] Oh and the ATT easement stops next to my driveway. There is an old T1? (as thick as my wrist) of copper entirely unterminated next to my driveway as well.
I ended up going with Sonic.
Worth it. Calling support has been fast and pleasant, and I'd prefer to not give that money to comcast.
Faster would be nice occasionally, but adblock has a bigger impact on page load time than bandwidth at this point.
The local cable internet provider wouldn't run cable, as it wasnt cost effective. They'd have had to run around 5 miles of cable to serve less than 50 households.
The cable TV provider did run some cable, and made it obvious they didnt care or plan to really service it. Personally, dont know why they bother other than to possibly meet a regulatory requirement as they didnt run it until 2000-2001 and anyone that wanted "cable" already had Directv or Dish by that point.
After every rain storm or snow melt, a different section of cable became exposed (they ran the cable in the ditch alongside a dirt road on the side of a mountain with less than a foot of top soil on average before you hit bedrock, so cant complain too much they didnt go deeper).
Then, if you’ve got 50 houses, how many will subscribe? Hint: not many, since folks who buy houses in places without broadband probably don’t prioritize broadband. Say you get 20 houses though, with $200,000 invested. That’s $10,000 per house. That’s an optimistic figure. Will you ever make that money back? No. Charter has a market cap of $5,000 per subscriber. If you blow double that on capital costs alone per subscriber, you’ll never come close to making it back. (Especially in a scenario like the above with high maintenance costs.)
Let's take an average over country then apply it in my back-on-the-envelope. Doesn't matter if areas alike Manhattan would probably have 100x the cost of running coax in the rural area (which obviously drives the average).
Then justify the existence of monopolies when in fact purely local providers are actually better able to reduce the costs associated with broadband installation. Those monopolies subsidise central areas by providing way worse service for rural.
I've actually got this issue in London (I didn't check before moving, that our house is literally in the middle of about 5 exchanges). Went as far as reaching providers relating to Gigabit Voucher Scheme or even thinking of asking a friend living about a mile away to provide a wireless link from his house.
They offered to split the cost with the other neighbors on the street. One are elderly who aren't interested in cable, the other are very religous and don't own a television or use the internet. IMO it'd be worth it for just the resale value of the houses.
Hell, I currently live in an affluent Chicago suburb, and I have exposed wires from both Comcast and AT&T just inches from the sidewalk out my back door. My dog literally takes dumps on the internet/TV cables to the townhouses I live in.
Haven't had AT&T service since they sold AT&T BI to comcast, but Comcast has the balls to tell me when I complain about an outage I should upgrade to business class if I want fewer outages (lower speeds, more money, supposedly service guarantees).
There are no federal level universal service mandates for broadband. In any event, mandates aren’t free money. Consumers end up paying for it, the cost is just hidden and unaccountable. The mandate obscures the political question of: should we give a $5,000+ subsidy to people out of other peoples’ pockets, or are there are needier people who are more deserving?
As to Romania—that country has vastly lower broadband penetration in rural areas (where more than half the population lives) than the US: https://www.broadbandtvnews.com/2018/05/22/romanian-broadban.... Also, costs are not easily comparable across countries. The vast bulk of costs of building fiber in the US is labor costs, both for initial build and for ongoing maintenance. Building infrastructure in a blank slate with developing country labor costs is a very different proposition than doing the same thing in the US. (It’s also why China can build tons of high speed rail while the California HSR project ran out of money before getting out of Fresno.)
> the “subsidy” is really coming out of their own pocket
ISPs lobbied really hard during the 1996 rewrite of the USF so they could add the “Universal Access Fund” line item on your bill separately. So, by and large, it’s not coming out of their pocket.
> The universal service fund only recently started offering subsidies for broadband
Not sure what you’re referencing when you talk about subsidies, but the USAC website says that they offered $200m in 2000, and the number quickly goes into the billions from there.
As to broadband subsidies: prior to 2011, the universal service fund only covered subsidies for broadband to schools and libraries, through the e-rate program. It wasn't until 2011 that the USF started subsidizing broadband generally through the Connect America Fund.
Which brings us to assumption 2. At > $100 per month, most people won’t subscribe. (Especially given that, as a matter of local law, in many places you’re required to offer a basic cable tier for $20-$30.) Atlantic Broadband, which covers rural areas around PA and MD primarily, has about 250,000 subscribers, but is available to almost 2 million people. (At least on a census-block basis.) My 40% assumption was quite generous.
There are more modern laying techniques for rural areas that don't require you to dig up that much. A five person team can lay 3 kilometers of fiber a day in rural areas with modern microtrenching solutions. (looks like this for instance: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4bfbh3ILLD0)
They almost certainly would make it back over a long enough time period. Broadband is going to get more important over time. Even if just a few people sign up now, future residents may prioritize it higher.
The minimum connection latency is 800-1000 ms, and the maximum download speed is 1-3 Mbps. That's with a 10 GB bandwidth cap though, so my actual download speed is 10-100 kbps for 90% of the month.
Any live video/audio/screen sharing is not possible. I have to schedule transfers for large files (1-5 GB) overnight, which are not bandwidth constrained during early morning hours.
I can get away with it because all of my work communication is through text channels.
It's not for everyone, but it's possible. For me, getting out of the city and living in the mountains with nature is well worth the trade-off of giving up some modern conveniences.
In all fairness, it's not a great option. My dad is at the very end of a DSL line in Maine and Internet is pretty bad. Neighbors who are a bit further out use a combination of satellite and wireless hot spots (on marginal cellular) and no one is very happy.
I was able to get serviceable, if albeit slow 4G LTE coverage at my parents' home about 7 miles out of town and about 1000 feet on the side of a mountain, but sitting in town at a brewery with a cell tower in sight out of the window, I couldn't get any signal at all. I presume the tower I could see was from an incompatible network.
In Montana, I've been able to get surprisingly strong signals in places I'd least expect it. E.g. I was hiking in the Bitterroot National Forest up Lolo peak, and I had near perfect coverage for nearly my entire hike as far back as 2006. But, if you head out into north eastern Montana, you may well find yourself in a dead zone for quite a while. I dont know if it is still the case, but used to be cells were useless anywhere near an ICBM silo (of which there are quite a few along route 200 east of Great Falls, MT - I attended a boy scout camp a few times out that way in the late 90s).
Regarding 5G, not sure it would help much in my parent's situation as I understand it is even more reliant upon line of site and more susceptible to interference from weather. There are decently sized mountains blocking them between the closest decently sized city and them. There would probably need to be a series of relay towers to overcome that.
I've so much used to have almost unlimited 4G data for 5bucks a month...
Basically companies need to reasonably be able to service any address within a census block without a major effort to be able to report that block as covered.
Then if a block is considered to have enough competition providers can’t get funding from various government sources to support their build outs.
To further exasperate the problem it appears the FCC is essentially doing very little validation on the data they are given and subsequently release.
We encountered all of these factors over the past ~5 years building BroadbandNow.com and lobbying the FCC to start collecting better address level data... or to at least minimally validate what they release.
On iur end, with each 477 data release it takes a team of 5 almost 2 weeks to process and merge the data properly. In that process we do a ton of geospatial and some statistical validation to make sure the data actually makes sense. (A CA provider also covers 400 people in Maine??)
We also compare it to historical data sets and a few propritary ones to make our data as accurate as possible. (We’ve also got some other tricks up our sleeve but can’t disclose those).
The only real long term solution is for the FCC to collect and release address level availability data from providers. The providers will rant and rave that this is a regulatory burden but the reality is that most of them already have this data and make it publicaly available if you go through the right channels... this is why we built businessinternet.com. We could easily get our hands on “lit building lists” and even fiber routes for business customers but when you ask ANY major ISP if they have address level coverage for residential customers they’ll tell you their systems aren’t advanced enough to have that data.
When we started BroadbandNow in 2014 we did so because we realized there were millions of Americans who we considered “underserved” meaning that they didn’t have more than 2 wires providers that offered 10/4 mbps.
Today we measure that metric at 25/3 but it is sad to say the number of underserved Americans has barely improved. As a team we believe better data improves competition. Hopefully Microsoft bringing attention to the issues around 477 data will create enough political leverage to help fix the issues.
This means if I have an issue with them, there's no competitor I can join instead and they take full advantage of this. I got it resolved recently after many years of issues, but it turns out that Comcast installed my cables wrong. They
1) Used television grade cables that weren't properly shielded so every time my neighbor ran their microwave my ping would spike to 800-2,000 and
2) Didn't hook up the cables right so my other neighbor and I have been splitting connections for the past five years
Every time I bugged them about this they would send out a tech that would poke around in the attic for a bit, but ultimately just shrug their shoulders and be on their way. I was finally able to get it resolved, but only because I happen to know a local Comcast executive that was able to escalate the issue for me.
If I provided such a negligent service and charged my customers full-price as an individual I would be arrested and charged with theft and fraud.
If it isn't being selected, then clearly there's insufficient competition to drive better prices and better packages.
Even today, I'd wager that for the vast majority of the EU (by population, so the U.K., Germany, France, Italy, and Spain), 25 mbps is closer to the median than the floor.
In terms of availability, even fibre is ubiquitous now. At least in the Tokai region, I would be shocked if there was a single town that didn't have fibre now. NTT rolled it out aggressively about 10 years ago. When I got hooked up in my apartment 4 years ago they didn't even bother to check availability.
It would be super interesting to see what the numbers are like now. Of course it's apples and oranges. The US is much harder to serve than Japan (although I guess the many earthquakes keep the fibre repair guys busy). But I think you'll see SE Asian countries having nearly ubiquitous coverage in the next handful of years.
No, not everyone is going to have your use patterns or knowledge. Most ordinary folks are just price sensitive. "What's the lowest price thing I can get that's not dialup."
I agree there need's to be more competition, but so long as there exits cheaper packages bellow the "minimum broadband" definition there will be many normal people who buy them.
If there were more competition (Comcast has a monopoly in western SV), prices would likely be lower and I’d probably be at/above 25mbps for the same price I’m paying now.
Glad that new solutions like satellites  are coming online to solve this problem.
Disclaimer: I'm an investor in Astranis, mentioned in the Forbes article.
Not sure how to respond to this, other than to point out that by most metrics, the US is largely a 3rd world country:
If you want to solve broadband adoption, you have to get Congress to stop allowing broadband companies to lie through their teeth.
IP Gateway REDACTED
Packet Loss 0%
Average Delay 621 ms
Minimum Delay 570 ms
Maximum Delay 650 ms
traceroute to 126.96.36.199 (188.8.131.52), 64 hops max, 52 byte packets
1 10.0.1.1 1.941 ms 0.933 ms 0.930 ms
2 192.168.42.1 2.535 ms 1.232 ms 1.313 ms
3 redacted 2.668 ms 1.366 ms 2.584 ms
4 184.108.40.206 601.534 ms 569.407 ms 600.134 ms
5 220.127.116.11 1483.616 ms 615.166 ms 620.347 ms
an article on LEO options from SpaceX notes the same latency: https://arstechnica.com/information-technology/2016/11/space...
i'd love something as low as 300ms (or the 25ms that LEO is promising), but it's just not going to happen.
as for whether an LEO solution will occur for rural americans? the monetary math for that doesn't make much more sense to me, but lots of things get deployed that don't make monetary sense so that's at least possible.
i wouldn't call satellite service in geostationary orbits (which was the subject of the article, though they did mention LEO options as competition) something that really "solves" this problem. you end up with fairly low bandwidth with current providers (for instance, hughesnet maxes out at 25mbit, which is theoretical since busy hours mean much less), with enough latency to make anything interactive extremely painful ... connecting to a remote shell without something like mosh is worse than 300baud dialup due to the latency - first hop to the satellite typically runs 800-900ms, and the next hop to a terrestrial gateway is 1200-1300ms.
streaming isn't exactly feasible either, given the latency and that a typical plan is measured in gigabytes per month (before you are throttled to an average speed of 1.5mbit).
but it works where there are no other providers and cell service doesn't reach.
To make that happen will require substantial federal legislation that will need to overcome the lobbying and influence of a 500 billion dollars worth of big telecom parasites and near total change of leadership at the FCC.
It should be publicly funded, publicly owned, and done akin to the Eisenhower Interstate System of the 50s, because it is about as important as those highways were to the future prosperity of the country.
Estimating the broadband adoption is a tricky issue because of number of stakeholders involved. First there are the companies that provide the physical connectivity. Their job is done as soon as the lines are laid to the base station or the satellite is sent into the space, etc  According to them anywhere the physical layer has reached there is internet connectivity (which is true...to an extent)
But this does not actually get the internet in to your home. Local distribution is a very big challenge. A similar thing happened in India with Bharat net . While the government successfully laid down the fiber optic cables the last mile connectivity was overlooked. So of course the broadband is inadequate when the capacity is not being used.
I agree with the article that internet is connected to a higher economic growth and overall prosperity. The same sentiment is also echoed by the WEF report . However these reports miss one very crucial point. Internet is not a service provider. Internet is a transport. You need to have people provide service on the internet if it is to be used. Local internet economy is almost non existent.
Many of the faults in FCC's report can be explained if you look at the internet provider business as a marketplace.
- Big companies own the platform and assert that the platform can reach anywhere. Which might very well be true.
- Local internet service providers use this platform to provide services to the customers.
- Customers pay for the internet service according to usage.
Why should a customer pay heavy charge for the broadband usage? Why should the local internet service provider invest into last mile connectivity?
On a global scale internet rapidly reached new levels of adoption when the application layer succeeded. Something similar needs to happen on a local level, I think. And this is what microsoft is also trying to do with their airband platform .
 If you do a bit of digging into physical layer distribution there are many exotic ways to provide network connectivity including sending weather balloons up in the air! Very interesting area of research if you're into this sort of thing.
(Of course, the really effective way to do that would be local loop unbundling and requiring a certain level of physical connectivity for everyone.)