Editor's Note: Good Enough Broadband

Fiber to the home proves its worth during the pandemic.

It’s hard to remember now, but people once debated about whether internet access was necessary. Later, they argued about whether broadband access to the internet was really necessary. Both those debates are long behind us – although many Americans, sadly, still lack broadband access.

Still up for debate is what kind of broadband is good enough. Most of this discussion has centered around speeds. Should 4 Mbps/1 Mbps qualify as “real” broadband? 10 Mbps/1 Mbps? 25 Mbps/3 Mbps? Are symmetrical gigabit speeds “too good”? When Verizon launched Fios with what was then market-leading bandwidth, a leading cable analyst suggested the company was trying to sell Mercedes-Benz automobiles in a Chevrolet market. We might all like a Mercedes, he said, but realistically, not many of us can have one, and any ISP that assumes it is serving a luxury market risks bankrupting itself.

As speeds increased for all types of broadband, the debate about “good enough” and “too good” shifted to infrastructure. Again, the skeptics’ argument typically ran, “We might all like to have fiber to the home, but we don’t need it. Instead of spending trillions of dollars, let’s use other types of networks.”

An End to Debate

Recent research sponsored by the Fiber Broadband Association should put an end to this debate. First, FTTH is not unaffordable. A year ago, the FBA issued a study, conducted by the consulting firm Cartesian, showing that FTTH could be made available to 90 percent of the U.S. population for about $70 billion – a long way from “trillions.”

Second, the global pandemic has caused people to rethink what’s “good enough.” In April, the FBA released the results of a consumer survey by market research firm RVA LLC. Many survey respondents were directly affected by COVID-19. Some were working from home; others were studying, shopping, searching for jobs or visiting doctors from home. Not surprisingly, a large proportion of respondents said they used video conferencing for business and/or education.

Even though the internet backbone has held up well under these new demands, many respondents said they had to ration internet use within the home and/or they lost significant time and productivity because of internet delays. These real-world impacts, which may be annoying during normal times, are costly and disruptive when all of life revolves around broadband.

The survey’s most important finding: Respondents with FTTH connections were much less likely to report internet rationing and delays than those who relied on other forms of broadband.

And that’s why Broadband Communities continues to advocate for building out fiber to every home. FTTH is the “good enough” solution.

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