The U.S. Census released its 2017 American Community Survey yesterday. Here are some of the things the new ACS reveals about the state of home Internet access for Cleveland residents in 2017:
Only 55% of Cleveland households had Internet connections via wireline broadband — i.e. cable modem, home fiber, or some form of DSL. In contrast, about 74% of Cuyahoga County residents outside Cleveland had wireline broadband connections.
Even when mobile and satellite accounts are included, just 70% of all Cleveland households had any kind of home broadband service last year. Three of every ten Cleveland homes remained disconnected.
Cleveland’s rates of wireline broadband connection and total home broadband connection made us 2017’s fourth worst-connected U.S. city of 100,000 or more households…. behind only Detroit and Miami, and essentially still tied for third place with Greensboro (for wireline connections) and Memphis (for all broadband connections).
In our last post we reviewed Richard Cordray’s broadband positions, outlined as part of the Democratic gubernatorial candidate’s infrastructure bond proposal. Recognizing that Ohio’s digital divide affects low income city residents as well as unserved rural communities, Cordray’s plan promises to support broadband initiatives by local governments; encourage commercial ISPs to use available Federal dollars to expand rural access; restore state funding for local workforce and library digital skills training programs; and create an “Office of Connectivity” to coordinate Ohio’s broadband policy.
Six days ago, Cordray’s Republican rival Michael DeWine answered with his own broadband position, included in the DeWine/Husted “Ohio Prosperity Plan”.
Here’s the DeWine plan’s broadband language in its entirety:
Expand broadband infrastructure across Ohio to make Ohio a frontrunner in mobile edge technologies. Our state cannot be tech-friendly when some people and communities don’t have access to the digital highway that allows them to participate and grow. Understanding the cost involved, the DeWine-Husted administration will work closely with the private sector to expand our broadband infrastructure.
“Mobile edge technologies” is one of AT&T’s promised “next big things” associated with 5G; see here and here. This phrase is probably DeWine’s way of promising strong state government support for AT&T’s 5G plans in Ohio, whatever they turn out to be. (Hint: Not rural broadband.) Read more
Is 4%-5% of your entire income a reasonable price to pay for home Internet access?
That’s the “broadband issue” for two out of every five Cleveland households who survive on annual incomes below $20,000.
As we detailed in our last post, AT&T is now billing its home customers about $65 a month for wireline broadband access at any download speed from 6 Mbps up to 100 Mbps. That adds up to $780 a year… the same price charged by Charter Spectrum for its 100 Mbps service, the cheapest it offers.
So the monthly cost of standalone Internet service from one of the city’s two home wireline providers is either:
- $55 a month for a very slow connection from AT&T (download speed between 768 Kbps and 5 Mbps), or
- $65 a month for any faster connection — from 6 Mbps up to 100 Mbps — from either AT&T or Charter Spectrum.
Are there cheaper wireless alternatives? Nope. Satellite Internet is more expensive, not less, and has serious data limits. Using a mobile data connection to provide home wifi, if you use 20 Gb or more of data per month (and you will!), costs as much or more.
40% of all Cleveland households had incomes below $20,000 in 2016. 31% had incomes below $15,000.
Paying $780 a year for broadband would take at least 4%-5% of those households’ total incomes.
That’s on top of all the traditional necessities — gas, electric, voice telephone, etc.
Helps explain why we’re one of the nation’s worst connected cities, doesn’t it? And why the map of home broadband access in Cleveland looks like this?