Broadband Bites: NTIA map paints clearer picture of digital divide
Also in this roundup: Cisco launches rural broadband center; standalone broadband service grows in US; Senators introduce BRIDGE Act.
- A new national broadband map dropped this week, courtesy of the US Department of Commerce National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA). Unlike the infamously flawed FCC map which relies on Form 477 data, this map includes additional data from Measurement Lab (M-Lab), Ookla and Microsoft. It's also interactive, allowing people to zoom in for regional information and toggle data sources on and off. The map shows a clearer and more granular picture of the digital divide in the US, incorporating speed test information and poverty data. In a press release, FCC Acting Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel called the map "a welcome new tool that provides valuable insight into the state of broadband across the country." However, this map is not a replacement for a forthcoming revised map from the FCC, which is likely to come sometime next year.
- Cisco this week announced the launch of a Rural Broadband Innovation Center in North Carolina: a $20 million effort to demonstrate its connectivity capabilities for rural service providers tasked with closing the digital divide. Discussing the launch on a webcast with the Washington Post, Cisco CEO Chuck Robbins said: "A lot of the connectivity that needs to be delivered is going to be delivered by some of the major carriers in the United States but also delivered by a lot of the smaller independent connectivity companies out in rural parts of the country, and so we wanted to create a place where those providers could come and get hands-on experience with the technology that's actually going to make it possible – new technologies like 5G that are going to be used to deliver some of this connectivity out in the remote areas." As outlined in an earlier blog about its plans for the center, some of that technology includes its networking silicon architecture (Cisco Silicon One), TDM-to-IP solutions and more.
- New research from Parks Associates shows that as of Q1 2021, 41% of US broadband households have standalone service, up from 33% in Q1 2018. The shift is due to "declining popularity of pay-TV bundles," says Parks, but 19% of subscribers now bundle fixed and mobile services. On average, US households with standalone home broadband pay $64 per month (up from $39 in 2011), and those with a bundled mobile plan pay $128. The data further shows that 24% of US broadband households expect to upgrade their service in the next six months.
- With infrastructure talks still underway, yet another broadband bill has been added to the pile in Congress, this one called the BRIDGE Act. The $40 billion bill was introduced by a group of bipartisan senators, including Sens. Michael Bennet, D-Colo.; Angus King, I-Maine; and Rob Portman, R-Ohio (I guess that's "tripartisan"?). The bill calls for a few significant things, including 100/100 Mbit/s symmetrical speeds, a mandated low-cost offering from all service providers and a lift on municipal broadband bans. In addition, the bill would create a new federal fund for the Commerce Department to make grants available to build new networks in rural, tribal and "high-cost" areas. In a press release, the legislators list support from groups including the National Digital Inclusion Alliance, Consumer Reports, Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), Fiber Broadband Association, National Farmers Union and others. However, WISPA, the group representing the fixed wireless industry, issued a statement commending parts of the bill, but cautioning that it "could have the unintentional effect of cutting consumers off from community-based providers and the broadband services they already receive," and that broadband policy should "focus on areas that currently have no broadband options."
— Nicole Ferraro, contributing editor and host of "The Divide" and "What's the Story?" Light Reading
Here's where you can find episode links for 'The Divide,' Light Reading's podcast series featuring conversations with broadband providers and policymakers working to close the digital divide.
As we have for the past two years, Light Reading will present our Cable Next-Gen Europe conference as a free digital symposium on June 21.
Charter has sparked RDOF work in all 24 states where it won bids. The cable op booked about $19 million in RDOF revenues in Q1, and expects to have about $9 million per month come in over the next ten years.
As we have for the past two years, Light Reading will stage the Cable Next-Gen Technologies & Strategies conference as a free digital event over two half-days in mid-March.
Launch of 2-Gig and 5-Gig FTTP tiers in 70-plus markets puts more pressure on cable ops to enhance their existing DOCSIS 3.1 network or accelerate their upgrade activity centered on the new DOCSIS 4.0 specs.