NTCA Survey Data Highlights Ingenuity of Small Rural Providers

ARLINGTON, VA — As a result of the increased fiber deployment, broadband speeds offered to customers of small, rural telecommunications companies continue to grow, according to an annal broadband survey report from NTCA, the Rural Broadband Association. The report highlights commendable growth and success by the nation’s independent, community-based telecommunications companies in deploying and operating broadband-capable networks even in the face of significant marketplace and regulatory challenges. In the 2013 survey, 66 percent of respondents’ customers were able to subscribe to broadband speeds of 10 Mbps or greater. In the current survey, 85 percent have access to service in excess of 10 Mbps, and 71 percent can subscribe to service of 25 Mbps or greater.

One hundred percent of the small telecommunications companies that responded to the 2015 survey offer broadband to some part of their customer base, compared with the 58 percent of the 2000 survey respondents who offered the then-lower definition of broadband service. The overall take rate for broadband service is 73 percent, up from 70 percent last year and 1 percent in the 2000 survey. In the 2013 survey, 29 percent of respondents’ customers were served by fiber to the home (FTTH); in 2014, the percentage grew to 39 percent; and in this year’s survey, almost half — 49 percent — have access to FTTH service.

Barrier to Widespread Fiber Deployment
Throughout the 15-year history of the report, the No. 1 barrier to broadband availability has been the cost to deploy networks, and 91 percent of 2015 respondents cite that as a significant barrier to widespread deployment of fiber. Regulatory uncertainty was the second most-cited barrier (79 percent), followed by long loops (56 percent), current regulatory rules (56 percent), obtaining financing (27 percent), low customer demand (21 percent), fiber order fulfillment delays (19 percent) and obtaining cost-effective equipment (19 percent).

“Despite the challenges they face, rural telecommunications providers continue to look for and find ways to deliver the services their customers want and need. The availability of robust and reliable broadband service plays a vital role in supporting the ongoing viability of rural America” said NTCA Manager of Economic Research and Analysis Rick Schadelbauer. “The continued growth NTCA has seen over the past 15 years validates providers’ decisions to make these services available, and we are hopeful that our members can build upon and sustain this success in years to come.” Twenty-two percent of NTCA members participated in the online survey in spring 2016.

About the NTCA
NTCA represents more than 800 independent, community-based telecommunications companies that are leading innovation in rural and small-town America. NTCA advocates on behalf of its members in the legislative and regulatory arenas, and it provides training and development; publications and industry events; and an array of employee benefit programs. In an era of exploding technology, deregulation and marketplace competition, NTCA’s members are leading the IP evolution for rural consumers, delivering technologies that make rural communities vibrant places in which to live and do business. Because of their efforts, rural America is fertile ground for innovation in economic development and commerce, education, health care, government services, security and smart energy use.

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