Saturday, August 25, 2012

New broadband research & reports

The Department for Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS) this week issued a contract notice for a "UK Broadband Impact Study - Economic Model and Evaluation":
"The Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) would like to commission a suitably qualified contractor or consortium of contractors to undertake economic modelling and evaluation of the Government’s Broadband policy. The research project titled ‘The UK Broadband Impact Study - Economic Model and Evaluation’ will be split into two stages. This specification is for the first stage only; the Pre-Rollout Stage."
The deadline for submitting a response is 25th September 2012. Also this week, the Office of National Statistics (ONS) published its Internet Access - Households and Individuals report for 2012. Key findings include:
  • In 2012, 21 million households in Great Britain (80 per cent) had Internet access, compared with 19 million (77 per cent) in 2011
  • The number of households with Internet access has increased by 7.1 million (23 percentage points) since 2006, when directly comparable records began
  • In 2012, 93 per cent of households with Internet access used a fixed broadband connection, of which 30 per cent used a cable or fibre optic connection
  • Of the 5.2 million households without Internet access, the most common reason for not having a connection was that they 'did not need it' (54 per cent)
  • In 2012, 67 per cent of adults in Great Britain used a computer every day
Coverage from ISP Review focuses on the adoption of different broadband technologies by location, highlighting the limited availability of superfast services in rural areas. From the ONS report:
"The 2012 estimates show that geography has a significant effect on how households connect to the Internet. DSL broadband was the dominant type of connection in all communities. In rural areas nearly eight in ten households (78 per cent) connected to the Internet using a DSL broadband connection and 12 per cent via cable or fibre optic broadband. However, for households in cities and urban areas, DSL broadband was less dominant with only 49 per cent connecting this way and 36 per cent connecting via cable or fibre optic broadband. This suggests, unsurprisingly, that fibre optic technology is being rolled out to urban communities earlier than rural areas as it can reach more people for the initial investment."
In the USA, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has published its eighth Broadband Progress Report: Congress in Section 706 of the Telecommunications Act of 1996 requires the FCC to report annually on whether broadband “is being deployed to all Americans in a reasonable and timely fashion.” From the FCC press release:
"The nation has made significant progress expanding high-speed Internet access in recent years, but further implementation of major reforms newly adopted by the Federal Communications Commission is required before broadband will be available to the approximately 19 million Americans who still lack fixed broadband service at threshold speeds.  In rural areas, nearly one-fourth of the population —14.5 million people—lack access to this service.  In tribal areas, nearly one-third of the population lacks access. Even in areas where broadband is available, approximately 100 million Americans still do not subscribe. The report concludes that until the Commission’s Connect America reforms are fully implemented, these gaps are unlikely to close. Because millions still lack access to or have not adopted broadband, the Report concludes broadband is not yet being deployed in a reasonable and timely fashion."
The full report is available here with mapping here. This is the first such FCC progress report to include extensive data on mobile broadband and the availability of next-generation, high-speed services. From paragraph 92 of the full report:
"Higher-speed broadband (10 Mbps and above) is increasingly available in many areas of the country. We must keep in mind these developments as we assess the current market and project consumer demand and expectations in the future. For example, cable providers have made much progress on rolling out DOCSIS 3.0, which is capable of 100 Mbps speeds and even higher speeds. And, Americans continue to demand and subscribe to higher services. We will examine in the next Inquiry whether we should identify multiple speed tiers in these reports to assess the country’s progress toward our universalization goal, as well as additional goals—such as affordable access to 100 Mbps/50 Mbps to 100 million homes by 2020. These higher speeds are important as we have seen that greater bandwidth allows for greater utilization of higher data speeds by innovators at the edge of the networks, which in turn drives greater demand and utility of broadband."
89.3% of Americans access 10Mbps speeds, 63.8% can access 25Mbps, 54.7% 50Mbps and 26.9% can access 100Mbps. Some concerning findings in relation to broadband services for US schools in paragraphs 131-134:
"As many as 80 percent of E-rate recipients say that their broadband connections do not fully meet their needs, and 78 percent of recipients say that they need additional bandwidth...We lack comprehensive data regarding the actual or desired level of broadband service in our nation’s elementary and secondary schools. NTIA has stated that, “based on studies by state education technology directors, most schools need a connection of 50 to 100 Mbps per 1,000 students.” While school systems will need speeds substantially faster than the speed benchmark, we find, based on SBI Data, that providers offer download speeds of at least 25 Mbps to only 63.7 percent of the nation’s schools, suggesting that many schools may not have a sufficient level of broadband continues to appear that many schools and classrooms are underserved by broadband today."
The Information Technology & Innovation Foundation (ITIF) challenge the report's conclusion that "broadband is not yet being deployed in a reasonable and timely fashion" across the USA:
"...America's broadband infrastructure is moving in the right direction, and is doing so at a reasonable and even commendable rate. Average broadband connection speed in the United States has risen from 22nd to 15th in the last two years according to Akamai, a majority of the world's LTE users are in the United States, and LTE networks are beginning to reach rural areas where the best wired options fail to meet the FCC's own definition of true broadband service...A holistic analysis of the U.S. broadband infrastructure must reach the conclusion that we're making "reasonable progress" as a nation."
More criticisms of the FCC report here. Finally, David Belson of Akamai (which produces the quarterly State of the Internet report), has in two blog posts (part 1 here and part 2 here) published an analysis and comparison of speed and coverage targets around the world. Some key findings:
  • ...not every country has developed a National Broadband Plan, or at least hasn't published one publicly.  Venezuela and Hong Kong, among others, were no-shows...
  • Some countries explicitly defined "broadband" as connections of at least a specific download (and sometimes upload) speed, setting adoption targets and timelines for those speeds, as well as higher speeds.
  • In contrast, some countries appeared to simply aim for "broadband adoption" targets, without actually defining "broadband" within the plan...
  • Geography was recognized as a key factor in broadband deployment and adoption in a number of countries, where they set out unique targets for urban or rural households, or cities and the countryside. Similarly, countries often set out unique targets for households, educational institutions, health centers or hospitals, and government facilities.
Coverage from ISP Review here.

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