Like Cartman's interminable wait for the Nintendo Wii's release, telecom wonks, broadband geeks, and other hipsters everywhere have been waiting with bated breath for the FCC to release its newest broadband statistics.
That day has arrived. The newly released data, which show the numbers as of June 2006, show that broadband investment and adoption continue to increase dramatically, up 26 percent in the first half of 2006 to a total of 64.6 million lines.
These impressive numbers mask other important details.
One interesting detail of the new statistics is the rise of new platforms for delivering broadband. Cable and DSL still dominate the market, with 28.5 and 22.6 million lines, respectively. Mobile wireless, however, went from only about 379,000 subscribers in June 2005 to more than 11 million in June 2006.
Empirical research finds that cross-platform and other facilities-based competition is a key driver pushing investment and innovation. The arrival of wireless broadband is a very good sign regarding market competitiveness.
The FCC data are problematic in many respects, as many have discussed. One problem in particular is that "broadband" is still defined as a connection that exceeds 200 Kbps in at least one direction. Faster than dialup, to be sure, but few would consider that true broadband. The FCC is aware of these data issues and has begun to provide data on available bandwidth. The FCC reports that about 37 percent of these high speed lines offer bandwdith between 200 Kbps and 2.5 Mbps, nearly 60 percent offer between 2.5 Mbps and 10 Mbps, and just under 5 percent offer at least 10 Mbps.
[Notes: the FCC takes a lot of criticism for its data, but its broadband data is more detailed than those offered by nearly any other country, the OECD, or the ITU. The OECD defines "broadband" as at least 256 Kbps in at least one direction.]