According to a survey by the NTCA - The Rural Broadband Association, high deployment costs remain the chief obstacle for small, independent telecommunications providers to provide high-speed broadband in rural America.
Some 89% of survey respondents cited the cost to deploy fiber infrastructure as the No. 1 barrier to its widespread availability. Fifty-two percent of survey respondents currently deploying fiber serve at least 50% of their customers using fiber-to-the-home (FTTH). Eighty-two percent of survey respondents indicated they had a long-term fiber deployment strategy. Thirty-nine percent of those respondents with a fiber deployment strategy plan to offer fiber to the node to more than 75% of their customers by year-end 2019, while 66% plan to offer FTTH to at least 50% of their customers over the same timeframe. An additional 31% have already completed fiber deployments to all customers.
Additionally, survey respondents are making higher-speed broadband service available to customers who want it. Sixty-seven percent of respondents' customers can receive a maximum downstream speed of greater than 25 Mbps and 20% can receive between 10 Mbps and 25 Mbps. While take rates traditionally lag behind availability, rural consumers are increasingly subscribing to higher broadband speeds. In the 2016 report 17% of respondents' customers subscribed to broadband service in excess of 25 Mbps, vs. 8% a year ago. And 60% percent subscribe to service of 4 Mbps or greater, vs. 55% a year ago. The overall broadband take rate remains relatively constant at 72% this year compared to 73% last year.
"NTCA members are the proven broadband solutions providers for their communities, living in the communities they serve and providing critically important broadband service to community anchor institutions," said NTCA Manager of Economic Research and Analysis Rick Schadelbauer. "In so doing, they make significant contributions to the safety, health and overall well-being of their customers. Their service helps facilitate the overall viability of rural America."
Twenty-nine percent of NTCA members participated in the online survey in the spring of 2017. The survey comprised general questions about the respondents' current operations, competition, marketing efforts and current and planned fiber deployment. Additional questions addressed the Internet backbone, VoIP and video.