Broadband Access Up in 2021; High-Speed Investment Still Needed

New research on broadband accessibility found that 77 percent of Americans now have access to low-priced wired broadband plans in the first quarter of 2021.

According to BroadbandNow, which published the report, that’s a sizeable increase compared to 50 percent of Americans having access in the first quarter of 2020, and 70 percent of Americans having access in the fourth quarter of 2020.

While the majority of Americans now have access to low-priced broadband – defined by BroadbandNow as less than $60 per month with minimum speeds of 25 Mbps download/3 Mbps upload – far fewer have access to high-speed broadband. Only 31 percent of Americans have access to a low-priced plan that has 100 Mbps download / 25 Mbps upload. Removing cost from the equation, nearly half – 41 percent – of Americans have access to symmetrical service of 100 Mbps download and 100 Mbps upload speed from a wired or fixed wireless provider

The report focuses on a few key areas related to broadband access.

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BroadbandNow highlighted the importance of broadband symmetry, which is when both upload and download speeds are the same. Broadband symmetry has become especially important during the COVID-19 pandemic as households have been more likely to have multiple individuals teleworking or distance learning simultaneously.

The report finds that Rhode Island and Washington, D.C. led the country in terms of access to symmetrical broadband at the 100 Mbps level. However, Connecticut – a leader in the country for access to 100/25 Mbps speeds – ranked near the bottom in terms of access to 100/100 Mbps speeds. BroadbandNow said this shows “a massive gap between upload speed levels and that a high level of traditional broadband access is not always synonymous with symmetry.”

The report also examines latency, which refers to the amount of delay that exists in a given connection between sending and receiving data. Nearly half of the states – 21 – saw their latency improve from Q4 2020. New Jersey was the only state to achieve single-digit latency, with March 2021 having the lowest latency reading in the past 15 months. The state with the biggest decrease in latency performance quarter over quarter was Nevada. Alaska and Hawaii lag behind the continental United States when it comes to latency.

BroadbandNow based its report on publicly available plan and coverage data from more than 2,000 internet service providers in the fourth quarter of 2020, publicly available Federal Communications Commission Form 477 data, and updated coverage data voluntarily submitted to BroadbandNow directly from providers.

Kate Polit
About Kate Polit
Kate Polit is MeriTalk SLG's Assistant Copy & Production Editor, covering Cybersecurity, Education, Homeland Security, Veterans Affairs