NTCA: Regulatory uncertainty threaten climbing rural broadband take rates

JANUARY 14, 2011 -- Broadband take rates in rural communities continue to rise, but regulatory uncertainty surrounding the national broadband plan (NBP) poses a severe threat to future deployment in rural America, according to a survey by the National Telecommunications Cooperative Association (NTCA).

JANUARY 14, 2011 -- Broadband take rates in rural communities continue to rise, but regulatory uncertainty surrounding the national broadband plan (NBP) poses a severe threat to future deployment in rural America, according to a survey by the National Telecommunications Cooperative Association (NTCA).

NTCA's "2010 Broadband/Internet Availability Survey Report" found that members' overall broadband take rate was 55% -- up from 38% last year. All of the respondents offer broadband to some part of their customer base. Yet an overwhelming majority expressed concern about the impact of the NBP on their operations, the NTCA says. The uncertainty about the NBP's potential changes to the existing regulatory framework is affecting their current decision-making process and impeding their ability to obtain necessary funding for broadband deployment, according to the survey results.

Nearly all (94%) of those who offer broadband serve some portion of their customer base via DSL, with 68% deploying fiber to the home (FTTH) or fiber to the curb. The fiber figures represent a 15% net increase in deployment (up from 59% one year ago).

Seventy-three percent of respondents offer video service to their customers. More than 8 in 10 respondents expect to have a video offering in place by year-end 2012. Nearly all (96%) indicated that the main barrier to providing video service is access to reasonably priced programming.

"This survey confirms that despite the uncertainty surrounding the FCC's national broadband plan recommendations, small rural telcos are working hard to deploy broadband services in their communities," said NTCA Chief Executive Officer Shirley Bloomfield. "Policy-makers must ensure that support for continued deployment is predictable and sustainable if the country is to truly accomplish the goal of universally available broadband."

The 2010 survey was sent electronically to all NTCA telco members and 115 companies (23%) responded. Forty-seven percent of survey respondents' service areas are 500 square miles or larger, 31% have customer densities of two residential customers per square mile or less.

The report is available on the NTCA’s website.

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