U.S News and World Report Broadband Survey

U.S. News and World Report recently conducted a nationwide survey on broadband usage and pricing. The survey captures a lot of statistics about broadband usage and creates a good snapshot of broadband usage in the summer of 2023. The survey talked to people in every state and has a statistical margin of error of 2%.

There are some interesting statistics on broadband usage.

  • 85% of survey respondents go online every day.
  • 31% of respondents say they are online almost constantly.
  • 8% of respondents don’t have home broadband access.
  • 20% of respondents have either one or no other choice of ISP.

As part of the survey, respondents took a speed test:

  • 64% are receiving download speeds faster than 100 Mbps or faster. According to the latest OpenVault report
  • 8% are receiving download speeds under 25 Mbps, which by the FCC’s definition, means they don’t have broadband.
  • 25% of respondents have upload speeds of 10 Mbps or slower.

This shows a disconnect between subscription speeds and actual speeds. The report from OpenVault from June 2023 showed that less than 11% of homes are now subscribed to speeds of 100 Mbps or less, but 36% of homes are not getting that speed.

The survey looked at a variety of issues related to broadband pricing.

  • Over half of respondents said that they paid between $20 and $60 when they first subscribed to their current ISP but that they are now paying between $41 and $80 for service from the same ISP.
  • 39% of respondents say that they have to cut other personal expenditures in order to afford to pay for their broadband bill.
  • 61% say that inflation is making it difficult to pay for their monthly broadband bill.
  • Only 45% of respondents think the speed they receive justifies the price they pay. 28% are unhappy with the speed they get for the price they pay.

These survey results should be a wake-up call to ISPs. ISPs have gotten complacent that broadband has become such a necessity that people will pay the bill at any price. But inflation is changing that situation, and the industry should take heed that 61% of broadband customers say that they struggle to pay their broadband bill.

I think price is a big factor in the amazing success of FWA cellular home broadband from T-Mobile and Verizon. Customers can buy FWA for prices from $50 to $70 depending on the specific situation, which is  now a lot cheaper than buying from any of the big cable companies that have starting prices of $85 and higher.

The survey also points out what speed tests have been showing. A lot of broadband customers are not receiving the speeds that ISPs claim to be receiving in marketing literature. In this particular survey, only 64% of respondents had a speed test of greater than 100 Mbps download – far fewer than would have been accepted according to what ISPs claim to be selling. It’s going to get interesting really quickly if the FCC under Jessica Rosenworcel increases the definition of broadband to 100/20 Mbps. According to this survey and according to the detailed speed test results I’ve been seeing, a significant number of homes are not receiving those speeds and fail the 100 Mbps download test, the 20 Mbps upload test, or both.

2 thoughts on “U.S News and World Report Broadband Survey

  1. Doug, enjoy reading your articles. I know that some company’s pricing practices are questionable, but some small rural companies have higher prices because the cost to deliver is much higher. The company I am with hasn’t changed prices in several years. When people say they have to cut costs to afford to pay the broadband bill I wonder if that means two less cups of star bucks coffee etc. I know that small rural companies are going to eventually going to have to face inflation. The small rural company has to pay it employees a fair wage, right? So if all costs go up (except maybe wholesale broadband although that is limited in rural markets) eventually the prices of service will also have to go up. Why is broadband immune to inflation, electricity goes up, water goes up, and if everyone is starting to lump Internet in the same bucket . . . . Not saying all rural and urban markets are similar, just think the problem is more complicated. The upcoming BEAD grants are promoting wirless and cheapest way to get it out (at least in Arkansas). Which is funny because if you go to WISPALOSA you hear them say wireless is a stop gap until you get fiber out here. The state governments should attend these and stop steering BEAD and other grants to promote wireless, will end up paying for moving wireless to fiber or another technology soon, much like ACAM companies that put out 25/3 are now going for EACAM to go to 100/20 . . . .

  2. I think it is important to note that consumer speed testing is pretty unreliable in aggregate. More often than not, the consumer ends up testing the speed of the wi-fi (on a particular device in a particular location) and not the backhaul, which is the number the ISP is selling. I have a fairly large house and the comcast router is in the basement. I pay for an 800 mbit plan and will absolutely get 800 with my newest laptop, next to the router. If I use my 5 year old iphone, only 400mbit, right next to the router. Or, if I go up two flights of stairs to the top floor, even with the new laptop, I am under 100, frequently about 65. So unless the test is done right next to the router, with an end user device capable of the backhaul speed, you are testing the wi-fi performance that device can get in that spot. Or if I have 3 kids home watching youtube and my wife is on a work video call, all bets are off as I am testing congestion and Wi-Fi performance.

    I am realistic. ISPs frequently are not wholly honest with their speed tiers. Not by a long shot. But spending 15 years in the wi-fi industry has shown me that having the consumer measure anything results in a answer with very large error bars around it. I don’t have an answer to how to better map broadband speeds, but I know we are not doing it right today…..

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