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Mike Saperstein

USTelecom Industry Metrics and Trends 2020: Update


USTelecom has updated its Industry Metrics and Trends 2020 report highlighting key elements of the broadband boom and investment story.

Chief among these are technical innovation and competition driven by investment, nearly ubiquitous network availability at ever-increasing data speeds, and a consumer transition from legacy voice to broadband and mobile communications services. All of these elements keep the U.S. at the forefront of international leadership in broadband.

Over the last quarter century, through extraordinary investments amounting to more than $1.7 trillion, U.S. broadband providers have led the transition from legacy communications networks to modern broadband and mobile networks.

The availability of 1 Gigabit per second (Gbps) service speeds has expanded at a breakneck pace over the past 42 months. Just three and a half years ago, 1 Gbps service was available to only 6% of housing units. Today that number has boomed to 85%.

Competition is strong and growing as well, with two or more 1 Gbps service options available to 30% of the population. That is up from just 5% two years ago. When it comes to service at other speeds, 86% of Americans have access to two or more wired networks. This competitive choice is even higher in urban areas, which stand at 97% availability of two or more fixed networks.

By the end of 2020 a projected 84%, or 109 million, American households will subscribe to fixed broadband. Meanwhile, only 6% of households will use traditional telephone lines. This continues the trend illustrated by the fact that since its peak of 186 million in 2000, traditional switched telephone subscriptions will have fallen to an estimated 24 million in 2020. At the same time, 79% of voice connections will be wireless and just 4% will be provided through traditional phone lines.

While the broadband industry is strong, gaps still exist with respect to development in rural areas, which have seen progress at around half the pace of urban ones. Since 2018 the digital divide has narrowed, but continued investment and targeted industry support is needed to continue the progress. Additionally, with data traffic constantly growing, the need for network upgrades is ever-present.

What we need to keep improving is:

  • A modern, light-touch regulatory environment suitable for a competitive, innovative, and technologically dynamic industry.
  • Support for sustainable facilities-based competition to incentivize competitive investment wherever feasible, with subsidies targeted efficiently to unserved areas.

Sound policies that encourage investment will help maintain U.S. international broadband leadership and ensure the benefits of information-technology innovations flow to all Americans.