Mountain Area Info Network, June 13, 20131
Western North Carolina is facing a “last-mile” broadband crisis according to preliminary data from a study mapping high-speed Internet access across the region. “Last-mile” refers to service at individual homes and small businesses.
The study, conducted by the nonprofit Mountain Area Information Network (MAIN), found that only 15 percent of respondents enjoy Internet access that meets the Federal Communications Commission‘s minimum speeds of 4 megabits per second (Mbps) download and 1Mbps upload.
Almost half the respondents – 48 percent – report no broadband access via a cable or digital subscriber line (DSL). The most common form of broadband reported was DSL from incumbent telephone companies Frontier or AT&T; it was cited by 37 percent of respondents. No DSL user reported an upload speed that
met the FCC’s minimum of 1 Mbps.
Fifteen percent reported using cable broadband service. Cable subscribers were the only respondents whose broadband service met or exceeded the FCC’s minimum standard for both upload and download speeds.
“This data confirms our worst fears,” said Wally Bowen, executive director of MAIN. “Reports of sub-par DSL, plus those reporting no access, comprise 85 percent of responses; that’s a huge majority reporting inadequate broadband access.”
Bowen called the results “preliminary” due to the relatively small study sample, but he said it tracks with data released May 13 by the FCC ranking North Carolina last among the 50 states in residential broadband availability (Table 13).
Christopher Mitchell, a broadband advocate with the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, called the findings “disturbing” because inferior access handicaps efforts to build sustainable local economies.
“Such a slow upload speed prevents people from being productive at home in a digital economy that values working remotely,” said Mitchell. “Slow upload speeds make video-conferencing difficult if not impossible. That puts the rural entrepreneur at a competitive disadvantage.”
“Given the small sample, we need more people to visit the website and document their broadband experience,” said Bowen.
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