This week, The Wall Street Journal published an article — “The Truth About Faster Internet: It’s Not Worth It” — claiming that consumers didn’t need access to high-speed networks. As the President and CEO of the Fiber Broadband Association, the headline certainly caught my eye. The research conducted by the WSJ is interesting but misses the mark about the broadband connectivity consumers require. Let me explain.
First, the real news in the article is buried. Broadband providers are spending billions of dollars annually to construct high-performance networks, particularly all-fiber networks, and they are competing aggressively for customers. As a result, consumers continue to see large increases in network performance, and, on a per-meg basis, prices are dropping tremendously. It would be great if every industry sector invested so much in its infrastructure and gave consumers so much more for their money.
Second, it was not all that long ago that the FCC thought consumers needed broadband connectivity at only 4/1 Mbps. Several years ago, they raised that to 25/3 Mbps, and I predict, based on Ookla speed tests and other data, that they will increase it to 100/20 Mbps in the near future. Why? Because consumers want a seamless broadband experience for all the video and other content they are accessing, and for new apps that demand more bandwidth. Who wants to miss out on 4K or even 8K TV? Who wants to wait hours to download new software for your mobile phone — or your self-driving car? So, even if you may not be bumping up against your bandwidth limit all the time, you still want access when you need it.
Third, broadband networks are about much more than download speed. Consumers want a great experience with their expectations met, which means greater upload speeds, low latency, and 99.999% reliability to accomplish everything consumers expect their broadband and devices to do for them. That’s what an all-fiber network provides and that’s why consumers are clamoring for all-fiber connectivity. From our consumer research, people value (and are willing to pay more for) an all-fiber experience. And, by the way, once you connect to an all-fiber network, you can be assured of getting the ultimate download speed today and tomorrow because all-fiber networks are future-proof.
Fourth, when a provider builds an all-fiber network, it doesn’t just benefit a targeted group of consumers who demand the most bandwidth. Providers roll out all-fiber networks for everyone in an area, so even those consumers who only need low-performance connectivity still get an incredible and reliable all-fiber experience.
Fifth, building all-fiber networks for all consumers and businesses is a national imperative. An all-fiber experience gives rural Americans access to all the economic and social opportunities urban consumers have. It drives 5G networks and smart communities. It enables businesses to think about an endless array of services and products for our future. And it enables America to compete with the world.
So, that’s the real story about faster Internet service – and it’s a good news story.