Gigabit Internet Service Unheard of in Much of US

December 17, 2014
By: Steve Anderson

For most broadband Internet subscribers in the United States, the top of the heap is somewhere around 10 Mbps. Sure, there are other options, and sometimes it seems like service is getting faster, but for most people, the idea of Internet that goes as fast as, say, Google Fiber just never comes into play. Gigabit Internet access in general, meanwhile, just never seems to enter the equation, not even as a thing that's vaguely been heard of like a character in an old fairy tale. A new study from Pivot Group and Telecompetitor (News - Alert), meanwhile, shows just how far divorced from people's perception the idea of actually having gigabit service is to most consumers.

The study in question, dubbed “GigaWhat? U.S. Broadband Awareness, Needs and Perceptions Study” shows that for most people, gigabit service just isn't a thing. Eighty-seven percent of respondents in the study noted never even hearing of the service before taking the survey. What's more, just under a third—32 percent—even know how fast the current connection subscribed to is, but 74 percent note that it's actually fast enough for current needs, or is even faster than is really needed.

The survey also reveals some unexpected results: 54 percent of respondents couldn't tell that a gigabit was faster than a megabit, and 70 percent of respondents believed that $70 a month for gigabit service would be too high. Most customers would sooner take gigabit service from a current service provider than from a municipal service or an electric utility, and nearly two thirds—64 percent—would sooner pay less for the current connection than pay more for the faster connection.

Essentially, consumers are widely confused about what's available, think the current service does the job, and aren't particularly interested in making a lot of changes. So getting customers interested in gigabit service may take a lot of work marketing-wise to really drive home why it's so much better than the alternatives, particularly the alternatives that customers are already using. Perhaps one way to make the distinction lies not in the speed, but rather in the available bandwidth. Sure, most people aren't likely to need gigabit speeds, but who couldn't use gigabit capacity? With most service providers having some kind of bandwidth cap in place—a standard monthly usage limit with charges or throttling directly behind for going over same—the gigabit service may be able to best shine not with its speed, but with its versatility. Don't point out how much faster it is, point out how much more can be done. With a variety of new services coming out on a regular basis like video conferencing, streaming 4K video, streaming gaming, and a host of others, being able to offer access to more of these services for longer periods of time could be where the value is, not in just being able to offer up faster access to the same things.

All new services have a certain amount of resistance from the market, beyond the early adopters. But the key to breaking that resistance is to find the value proposition and make it clear to the user base. With gigabit Internet, the value may not be in the speed, but in something else. Finding that something else will be the key to breaking into the market, once there's a wider release.




Edited by Maurice Nagle