Broadband internet speeds across America have been increasing overall as more and more consumers adopt faster connections to deal with their needs.
According to CNN Money, in 2015 the FCC moved to change the definition of broadband Internet to match what they saw as the minimum viable connection speed for streaming, downloading, and uploading media in the twenty-first century.
Before 2015, the definition of broadband used a standard of 4MBPS, but with the FCC’s change, the base speed increased to 25 MBPS. Knowing how much speed your internet provider is giving you is essential to figuring out the quality of your internet connection. Now, if you live in a rural district, the government and the FCC have good news since they intend to make it easier for your ISP to increase the speed with which you connect to the Internet.
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A History of Speed Growth
Entrepreneur states that in 2010, internet traffic surpassed 20 exabytes per month, with an exabyte defined as one billion gigabytes. In the earliest days of the Internet, connections speeds like these were but fleeting dreams of a distant future.
The Internet came about from the linking of several private networks, with the dominant player being ARPANET. Eventually, ARPANET merged with other private networks and became the Internet we know, albeit operating mostly on simple web pages and bulletin board systems. As computers penetrated the market, the Internet offered a means of communication and interaction never before seen in human history.
Speeds jumped massively over this time as consumers quickly went from phone-based dial-up systems to cable and ADSL Internet lines. Cisco mentions that in 1984 the total traffic on the Internet was around 15GB per month, while in 2014 it was common to see one user consume 15GB per month, showing the extreme exponential growth of the medium. If we look at the consumption rates of consumers today, we can clearly see the trend towards higher usage. As US Mobile notes, while technically, faster connection speeds don’t mean consumers will consume more data, the reality is that at a faster speed, users have the potential to use more data over the same period of time.
Bringing Rural Districts up to Speed
Rural areas of the country have been lax in keeping up with the rate of growth of Internet speeds around the country. The main reason is that the cost of installation of lines out in rural areas is far more expensive than the expected return for the installation. While in February of this year Endgaget reported that the FCC considered that broadband deployment to rural districts continued on a consistent and timely schedule, the government has decided that access to broadband for non-urban communities needs to happen faster. Digital Trends mentions that the government in partnership with the FCC want to bring rural America up to speed with the rest of the country, as well as implement the rollout of 5G wireless coverage across these areas.
The 5G Fast Plan
The FCC states that they intend to expand availability for 5G service to providers by performing an auction (slated for December of this year), hoping to encourage providers to increase infrastructure and coverage in rural districts. Additionally, as stated on the FCC site, the governing body is giving cities a 90-day window to process new applications for the construction and deployment of 5G infrastructure and will limit the underlying fees cities can demand the installation. The major limiting factor in deploying infrastructure in less populated regions is the cost, and the FCC hopes that limiting this cost will encourage companies to deliver service to areas that have historically had lower broadband speeds.
Development Takes Time
As it stands, many of the rural communities that stand to benefit from the upgraded broadband service won’t see any returns on this proposal overnight. TechSpot suggests that as many as 40% of the proposed areas will be enhanced by 2022, with a 10% increase every year until the project finishes in 2028. If you live in or operate a business in a rural district, this is excellent news for you. CNet notes that as late as October 2018, it was likely that if you lived in some rural regions, broadband was entirely out of the question and it was possible that you would have access to no Internet providers at all.
There is hope that this decade-long rollout of connection to the less populated areas of the country will alleviate this problem and provide infrastructure in line with what one expects from a first world country. Only time will tell whether the expansion of the connection framework will be successful and how many people it will actually impact. For now, we’re left hoping that more people can enjoy the speeds that we in urban areas take for granted daily.