Rural communities' recognition of the utility of broadband may be rising, but a new survey by the National Telecommunications Cooperative Association (NTCA) revealed that a cloudy regulatory environment related to the FCC's proposed national broadband plan (NBP) could threaten new growth in these regions.
On the bright side, the "NTCA 2010 Broadband/Internet Availability Survey Report" illustrated that its broadband service provider members saw broadband subscribership rise from 38 percent in 2009 to 55 percent.
While 100 percent of service providers that responded to the survey said they offer broadband to a portion of their customer base, many were concerned about how the NBP could affect their ongoing operations.
To deliver broadband to their customer base, 94 of respondents that offer broadband are using DSL, while 68 percent are deploying either Fiber to the Home (FTTH) or Fiber to the Curb (FTTC). Even though deploying last mile fiber remains an expensive proposition in rural areas, FTTX deployments were up 15 percent in 2010.
"This survey confirms that despite the challenges--and particularly the regulatory uncertainty resulting from the national broadband plan recommendations--small rural telcos are doing their best to deploy broadband and other services in their communities," said NTCA Chief Executive Officer Shirley Bloomfield in a release. "Efforts to reform the existing regulatory framework must ensure that support for continued deployment is predictable and sustainable. Only then will we be able to truly accomplish policy-makers' goal of universally available broadband."
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