The median American considers 50/5 Mbps as broadband — Entner

Voiced by Amazon Polly

Roger Entner Dec 7, 2021 05:52pm

Using the weighted average of the responses, Americans spend around six hours every day on the internet. (Getty Images)

Roger Entner

In March 2021, Recon Analytics conducted a demographically representative survey of 1,000 Americans using internet and cell phones, asking them about their opinions and attitudes around universal access, funding mechanisms, conduct, and usage.

When it comes to broadband in the U.S., Americans overwhelmingly support two ideas. First, they agree that fast broadband should be available to every American at prices they can afford. Second, when presented with options for subsidizing broadband for those who can’t afford it, Americans overwhelmingly agree that companies that benefit from more Americans being connected to the internet should help defray the cost of subsidizing broadband for consumers who can’t afford it.

More than 78% of respondents agreed that broadband should be available to every American, with broad support across large parts of the U.S. Interestingly, Americans who do not have what they consider broadband are less supportive of the idea of broadband for all. This finding, mirrored in other studies, indicates that any broadband infrastructure program must include an educational component if the administration is serious about getting all Americans online.

As we found in previous surveys on broadband usage during the pandemic, around half of respondents use their internet connection to work from home. The U.S. Department of Labor reports that 54% of the U.S. workforce is white-collar employees. This number highlights the importance of broadband for the functioning of American business and enterprises during the continuing pandemic. It is likely that the added agility and flexibility to work from home will continue to be utilized after the country has emerged from the pandemic restrictions. 

There is significant disagreement of what is considered broadband. The median American considers 50/5 Mbps as broadband, while almost roughly 29% consider Gigabit speeds to be broadband.

Using the weighted average of the responses, Americans spend around six hours every day on the internet.

Entner chart

When looking at those who use the internet from home for work, unsurprisingly the usage pattern is significantly heavier as their usage pattern includes both business and leisure activities.

While only 37% of respondents knew that the Lifeline Program provides low-income Americans with basic phone and internet service, they were open to new funding sources to close the digital divide. More than 71% of Americans are in favor of the idea that that large social media and search companies like Google and Facebook that make money through the internet should contribute to providing access to Americans who currently cannot afford it. Such a move would dramatically expand the funding sources for a broadband access plan and include companies that have gotten the most value and profits from the internet.

What is really interesting, the survey also found support to extend net neutrality rules to websites and e-commerce companies.

Extending net neutrality

We framed questions around the net neutrality principles of no blocking, no throttling, and no paid prioritization by asking Americans if websites like Google, Facebook or Amazon should be allowed to restrict access to legal sites, give preference to their own products and services over others and change the search results based on how much money they receive from others.

More than 72% of Americans are against companies like Facebook or Google restricting access to legal sites for any reason. This is exactly the behavior that Facebook showed when it made it impossible to link from Facebook to news sites in Australia (and for a short time to itself) to prevent it to having to compensate news sites Facebook linked to. This is the essence of the No Blocking rule in net neutrality.

More than 55% of Americans think that companies like Amazon, Google or Facebook should not be allowed to give preference to their own products and services over that of others. Rules that prevent such conduct would prevent the type of self-dealing that Google has been fined for more than $10 billion by the European Union.

Search engines, and by default Amazon, Google and Facebook are all search engines as they seem to provide you with what you are looking for, are increasingly the prism through which we see the world. They have incredible power over our perception of what it is we are actually looking for. By pushing competing products into the obscurity of lower-ranked results, they provide an implicit value judgment. In essence, they throttle the success of other products that are better but do not fit the commercial objective of the search engine provider.

More than 80% of Americans responded that they are against search engines altering search results based on how much money they receive from websites and advertisers.

It is common that the first view search results for a given term are occupied by responses that are marked by the easily missed word “Ad” in front of the link. Many companies are buying the search terms for their competitors to be listed at the top of the search results forcing the company that is searched for to outbid the competitor and be the first search result. This essentially becomes a Google Tax on companies and is a paid prioritization, the very situation that companies like Google have fought against when funding lobbying activities for net neutrality rules.

The current drive to push through narrowly-based net neutrality rules that are based on Title II is a defensive move by internet companies to prevent being regulated along the same lines as the telecom providers when consumers demand the same protections from social media companies and e-commerce providers that they demand from internet service providers. The logic is that if net neutrality gets approved on a narrow basis, the pressure to extend it to all participants of the internet will evaporate and edge providers will have to deal with a significantly more narrow set of regulations that allow them to capture a larger part of the profits that are being generated through the internet.

Here are the results from the Recon Analytics survey:
Do you believe that access to broadband internet should be available to every American?
Yes 78.2%
No 21.8%

Did you know that the government requires a small portion of your phone bill to be used to fund phone service for low-income Americans aka lifeline service?
No 62.9%
Yes 37.1%

Do you think companies like Google and Facebook that make money through the internet should contribute to the provide access for Americans who do not have the internet?
Yes 71.4%
No 28.6%

Should companies like Google or Facebook be allowed to restrict access to legal sites for any reason?
No 72.7%
Yes 27.3%

Should companies like Amazon, Google, or Facebook be allowed to give preference to their own products and services?
No 55.8%
Yes 44.2%

Should search engines be allowed to alter search results based on how much money they receive from websites or advertisers?
No 80.6%
Yes 19.4%

How would you define broadband internet access?
3/1 9.3%
10/1 9%
25/3 14.8%
50/5 17.3%
100/10 20.9%
Gigabit 28.8%

Do you currently have broadband internet access?
Yes 74.2%
No 25.8%

Does your job require internet access at home?
Yes 53.4%
No 46.6%

How much time per day do you spend on the internet (via your mobile device or on your computer?)
Less than an hour 10.9%
2-4 hours 26.4%
4-6 hours 20.4%
6-8 hours 17.6%
8-12 hours 16.0%
More than 12 hours 8.7%

Roger Entner is the founder and analyst at Recon Analytics. He received an honorary doctor of science degree from Heriot-Watt University. Recon Analytics specializes in fact-based research and the analysis of disparate data sources to provide unprecedented insights into the world of telecommunications. Follow Roger on Twitter @rogerentner.

“Industry Voices” are opinion columns written by outside contributors—often industry experts or analysts—who are invited to the conversation by Fierce staff. They do not represent the opinions of Fierce.