FCC Says 6 Percent of U.S. Homes Can't Buy 4 Mbps Service. Really?

By Gary Kim August 21, 2012

Some 19 million people in seven million U.S. households live where fixed broadband networks do not reach people with a minimum speed of 4 Mbps downstream, and 1 Mbps upstream , according to the FCC.

That implies some 5.9 percent of U.S. households are not reached by a fixed network, using 116 million U.S. households as the universe of places. Some might use a household base of 130 million, suggesting 5 percent of U.S. housing is not reached by a fixed broadband network.

The report also suggests, however, that in June 2011, 9.6 Americans did not have service of at least 768 kbps downstream. Assuming a typical figure of 2.5 people per household, that would imply about four million U.S. households not able to get Internet access at speeds of at least 768 kbps.

On the other hand, Verizon is offering up to 300 Mbps/65 Mbps for FiOS, while CenturyLink is offering up to 40 Mbps/5 Mbps.

According to industry reports, DOCSIS 3.0, capable of 100 Mbps speeds and even higher speeds, has reportedly been deployed to 82 percent of U.S. households.


The FCC report also notes that 79 percent of telco-served locations nationally have access to service running at least as fast as 4 Mbps in the downstream direction, while 85 percent of cable-served high-speed access locations have access running at a minimum speed of 4 Mbps in the downstream.

Perhaps significantly, the FCC report also notes that just 6.2 percent of people do not have access to mobile broadband services offering downstream speeds of at least 3 Mbps. In other words, the percentage of people without access to speeds of 4 Mbps on a fixed network (about 6 percent, using the FCC calculation) is matched by 6 percent of people also unable to purchase a mobile broadband service operating at least 3 Mbps.

The study therefore says the percentage of people unable to buy either a fixed or mobile broadband access services of at least 3 Mbps is 1.7 percent. That represents about 5.5 million people, or about 2.2 million locations, using the 2.5 persons per household metric.

Keep in mind that Exede, the satellite broadband service, offers speeds up to 12 Mbps, on a continental basis, and the new HughesNet service, which hasn’t yet formally announced its retail packages, uses exactly the same satellite, and is thus capable of speeds matching those of Exede, across the continental United States.

One might argue that if those services are included in the statistics, there are almost no locations in the United States that cannot receive 12 Mbps downstream service.

Edited by Braden Becker

Contributing Editor

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