Delivered daily: Who cares about broadband networks?

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I don’t take this question seriously.

For anyone who has experienced the internet (not the web, not social media–the internet), we all care about broadband.

In today’s article, I’m going deep into some numbers focused on overall broadband deployments (4Q22) and those focused on rural communities (2018).

Here’s one number to keep in mind…

According to this 4Q22 edition, average per-household consumption was 586.7 GB at the end of 2022, an increase of nearly 10% over the prior year.

That’s a monthly average throughout 2022. (Meaning, if someone uses 300 GB, someone else uses 900 GB.)

What does 600 GB per month get a household?

Here’s an idea…

  • 1GB equals five hours of mobile web browsing
  • 1GB is just 30 minutes of HD video streaming
  • 1GB means five hours of mobile gaming
  • 1GB can get you up to 18 hours of music streaming

Multiply one of those items above by 600 and that’s your average month. Or, mix and match.

It may seem like a lot. Add kids and friends and multiple devices, and you’ll easily hit that 600 GB monthly average.

(This is not speed, which is normally valued in ‘per second’. Ie, Gbps. The great customer tragedy of rolling out a cell service named 5G.)

Speed is a killer

A big challenge in building broadband networks is over-building to ensure any new technologies or usage trends won’t saturate the current infrastructure.

In other words, make sure we build a house big enough that will contain all our future dreams. If we don’t, we’ll need to rebuild (or move).

The same can be said for networks.

Except there’s an opportunity to educate users of their actual needs.

Gigabit speeds are overkill for the vast majority of internet users, but with more people ditching cable TV and girding their homes for remote work, internet providers have found a golden opportunity to push unnecessary upgrades with fatter profit margins.

Here are some terrific examples of what 1 Gbps speed gets users (and why it’s unlikely most users need that type of speed)…

  • Netflix recommends download speeds of 25 Mbps for 4K HDR video. That means you’d need 40 simultaneous streams—10 times more than what Netflix’s 4K plan even allows—to make full use of a gigabit connection.
  • Zoom recommends speeds of 3.8 Mbps for 1080p videoconferencing. Bandwidth would only become a problem if you had more than 263 video calls going at the same time.
  • Tidal reports a maximum bitrate of 9216 Kbps for master quality streaming audio. You’d have to stream on more than 108 devices at a time to run out of bandwidth on a gigabit connection.

There certainly are reasons some users need Gbps speeds.

However, the majority of us are sucked into the idea that bigger and more is better.

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Which creates a cycle of users always wanting more, advertising that more is better and a demand for our networks to be rebuilt to handle this faux need for faster speeds.

(It’s not only misleading marketing practices. It’s my arch nemesis, advertising. Bloating webpages and adding unnecessary features to websites create a “slow” connection.)

The reality

We should probably stop overbuilding in metro areas and direct those resources to rural areas.

In 2018, Microsoft offered a new way to close the broadband gap in rural America using a new technology over existing infrastructure.

The challenge was laid out:

Yet despite this glaring disparity, real progress to close the rural broadband gap has plateaued in recent years. High costs, the absence of new and alternative technologies, and market and regulatory conditions have all hampered efforts to expand coverage.

There’s one thing that’s missing in that quote. Or, maybe it’s buried in the paper.


Not the funding to build the networks in rural areas.

It’s the money that comes from those network buildouts.

Besides doing “good”, there isn’t a big incentive for big companies to do big things in areas with substandard economies.

I alluded to this in the article on repositioning AI – there’s a big investment in OpenAI, and there’s likely a big return factor associated with that investment.

(Look deeper into the Silicon Valley Bank, SVB, catastrophe. Same thing.)

So, why pour millions into a substandard economic area? Because it’s a substandard economic area. Likely with the same ideas and needs and wants, without the same opportunities.

We need a longer-term approach to “raise the floor” of the American economy.

And I think we’re getting there.

What’s next

As noted in earlier articles, we’re moving forward with access to funds to build out new broadband networks in underserved areas.

This is a big start.

And one that likely (hopefully) goes unnoticed by the majority of internet users.

As these new networks begin serving rural customers, we’ll likely see the gap in accessing broadband internet close.

Let’s hope the current ‘faster-is-better’ thinking doesn’t hit these new users.


I see both sides of broadband networks on a daily basis.

The buildout of networks and their impact to communities who are starved for any real access to a broadband network.

And as a user, regularly traveling across rural communities without a strong (or sometimes any) broadband connection.

I’m excited and encouraged, on both ends, to see these changes.

Thank you

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