Great news for 4K streaming services and their subscribers: 100Mbps internet connectivity is now available to 59% of U.S households.

by on December 17, 2014

by Stephan Jukic – December 17, 2014

In a piece of news that bodes extremely well for internet users who will eventually want access to the most high-bandwidth traffic of all in the form of 4K streams, it turns out that the availability of high speed internet of roughly 100 Mbps is quite broad across the U.S, in contrast to findings from previous reports.

However, there are some interesting caveats to the U.S connectivity situation.

According to a very recent report by the U.S Department of Commerce, roughly 59% of the U.S population can actually buy access to internet speeds of 100Mbps or more and of the entire population, 2% can even buy access to fiber services that offer a massive full gigabit of connectivity.

On the other hand, certain isolated pockets of people are barely able to access services that offer just 3Mbps, which is barely enough for much of the newer streaming media traffic that is growing on the web.

Other findings in the Department of Commerce report also mention that, while 100Mbps is surprisingly well distributed, competition between ISPs could use some considerable improvement.

Of the 59% who can buy 100Mbps+ service, only about 8% are able to choose between just two providers and only a measly 1% have three or more choices of ISPs. The remainder are stuck with only one company, regardless of its pricing model and customer service quality.

Addtionally, just 3% of the entire population has access to Gbps level connectivity and virtually none of these could get it from more than one provider in their area, something which isn’t all that surprising considering how much investment is required to set up such a network. The one exception to the choice dilemma for gigabit service was Austin, Texas, where both AT&T and Google compete to provide ultra-high velocity fiber connections to homes.

A Google Fiber truck lurking the streets, offering 1 Gbps connectivity in select U.S cities

A Google Fiber truck lurking the streets, offering 1 Gbps connectivity in select U.S cities

At the much lower extreme of the quality spectrum, there are also 3% of Americans living in the U.S who have access to no more than 3Mbps and of these, roughly two thirds could get even this low level of quality from only one provider; something which is pretty dismal even if the 3% are a tiny minority of the total U.S population.

These stats for connectivity velocities include a full spectrum of fixed line service types such as DSL, Fiber, Cable and even terrestrial fixed wireless services. However, they don’t take into account access to satellite internet connectivity or the entire mobile cellular internet networks that cover much of the U.S.

One positive and interesting feature of the connectivity landscape is the fact that a number of smaller ISPs are now starting to push forward with their own gigabit services. Many of these are highly localized and in some jurisdictions, they are being helped along by municipal governments. Furthermore, there is still plenty of room for expansion into 1 gigabit connectivity along many classical ISP networks such as cable, which can technically support these kinds of super velocities with some technological modifications even though many of them currently only manage 100Mbps or less.

As far as the increasing popularity of 4K streaming services goes, these findings don’t look at all bad for the future expansion of streamed ultra HD media on the web. 4K video requires at least 20 Mbps to be streamed effectively if it’s been compressed properly through HEVC encoding. This means that those 59% of Americans who can get 100Mbps of connection speed are already primed for accessing the latest 4K content streams from services like Amazon Instant Video or Netflix.

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