The internet service provider market might seem saturated. Yet, the services offered by ISPs differ across the country. Most internet users enjoy high-speed broadband, but others are still on dial-up.
Many users are served by big names such as AT&T. But, many people still struggle to get high-speed internet because of where they live.
There might then be a need for more ISPs in some places. Or, it could be that existing ISPs need to expand their coverage.
How many ISPs are operating in the states?
Data surrounding ISPs vary considerably. One report indicates that there are 7,000 businesses providing internet services in the states now. While other studies put the figure far lower.
Official FCC data from 2021 indicates that 2,201 ISPs were in operation. The internet service provider industry employs over 280,000 individuals. And the sector is worth over $143 billion.
The most prominent names in communication, including Verizon and Comcast, provide internet services. But, many smaller ISPs offer a local service that is more suitable to certain communities.
In rural areas such as Kentucky, Broadlinc aims to bring fast broadband to remote towns. High-speed broadband is still an issue in many places. The download speeds experienced by internet users vary across the states.
Are all ISPs providing the same download speeds?
Any ISP worth its salt wants its customers to be satisfied. Switching ISPs is relatively painless, and with comparison sites, consumers can find the best deals easily.
However, different parts of the US experience very different download speeds. Delaware is said to have the fastest average download speed at 145.8 Mbps.
Rural America has traditionally had a hard time with internet access. And many users have found that getting high-speeds costs more than in urban areas. Only a few years ago, internet users in Saguache County were lucky to see download speeds of 12 Mbps. For the pleasure of this far-from-high speed, customers paid 3 times the amount city dwellers were for far faster broadband.
More ISPs in areas such as Saguache County would bring competition. And this may encourage ISPs to invest in terrestrial broadband infrastructure.
What services do ISPs usually provide?
There was a time when dial-up was the only option. Businesses such as AOL provided customers with a modem to plug into a phone socket to make a connection.
Now ISPs provide faster internet access and more services. An ISP might offer bundles for internet and TV. They may also provide telephone services.
Services and devices given by ISPs may include these:
- Wireless DSL
- Data center services
- Domain name registration
- Web hosting
A good internet connection can provide a home with all of its communication and entertainment needs. High-speed broadband allows uninterrupted streaming video to be displayed on TV and lag-free online gaming.
Are more internet service providers needed in the States?
Not every ISP offers all their services to every customer. To be classed as broadband, certain download and upload speeds need to be reached. In some parts of the US, this isn’t yet possible. Therefore, two ISP customers in different areas may have different download speeds.
There is a need for more ISPs to invest in laying fiber optics and increase coverage to remote areas. Some ISPs are less interested in small populations than others. This has left many communities and would-be internet users without broadband or any access at all.
What areas need more ISPs the most?
The most affected areas in the US are rural and tribal lands. Data from Pew Research Center indicates that 24% of rural inhabitants have major problems with broadband access. Around 14 million people that live in rural areas don’t have high-speed broadband. And about a third of those who live on tribal lands also lack access.
There are places where only 8% of the population has internet access. There should be no comparison between Eritrea’s internet penetration and the US, where funding is available.
Places in the US that have scattered inhabitants or low populations are also lacking in ISPs to choose from. Many people in rural areas still connect with dial-up to get online. In 2023, this isn’t good enough.
Why are rural areas in the US struggling to get broadband?
Laying fiber optic cables involves costly materials and labor. Some ISPs may consider expanding coverage in rural areas to be financially unviable. The terrain in remote areas is also a challenge.
Physical barriers and tough terrain hinder ISPs who want to expand broadband coverage. Non-line of sight blocks wireless signals, and the countryside is full of barriers in this way.
Funding and investment have been issues in the past too. The divide between urban areas compared to rural regions has been obvious. Some ISPs saw less value in rural areas than in cities.
This has led to people relying on mobile internet access, dial-up, and in some cases, satellite connection.
Why is there a need for terrestrial broadband when satellite and mobile are available?
Satellite and mobile offer two other options for rural and tribal land dwellers. Yet, they both have disadvantages over fixed broadband services.
Satellite internet covers almost all of the planet. Even the most remote inhabitants in the US can use satellite internet.
Satellite internet is ideal for rural users who have no other option. But, satellite comes with some disadvantages. Using the internet via satellite can be patchy in bad weather and costly.
Download speeds with satellite are slower than cable or fiber, and the pricing is usually higher than with terrestrial internet. VPNs cannot be used with satellite internet resulting in less secure connections. Plus, data is often strictly capped.
Over 92 percent of people use smartphones to get online. Many also use smartphones to create hotspots for home internet access. Relying on mobile internet in rural areas comes with some issues.
Heavy internet usage will result in mobile data running out. Mobile internet providers often throttle download speeds once limits are reached. And mobile data is costly.
The problems facing remote workers in rural areas are a hot topic now. Certain soft skills for teleworking increase productivity, but high-speed broadband is just as important.
Hotspotting isn’t a viable option in rural areas where mobile signals are weak or unstable.
Are more rural ISPs the solution?
Some ISPs are already addressing the concerns of rural internet users. One Kentucky broadband ISP has invested in infrastructure improvements and building fiber.
More local ISPs might be the answer to rural areas. Rural ISPs are more likely to invest in their regions. They will understand the localized problems, such as remote communities, and issues with the terrain.
A rural ISP is also more likely to see the potential in reaching out to scattered communities and low-population towns.
Even with 2,000 plus ISPs, or 7,000, depending on which report you believe, there is still a need for more ISPs to tackle rural areas. Or, perhaps there is only the need for existing ISPs to roll out broadband to more rural communities.
The local ISPs in rural areas are already laying more fiber cables and investing in expanding coverage. With more funding and investment, ISPs may be able to reach the remaining rural inhabitants without broadband access.