GRAND HAVEN, MI – Nearly 11% of Ottawa County residents surveyed said they do not have broadband internet.
And of those surveyed who have internet, 15% had speeds below the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) minimum broadband threshold. It’s a threshold county officials say is outdated and much slower than a new industry-recommended standard.
Ottawa County officials say the newly released survey confirms what they knew: that there are gaps in internet coverage across the county.
The survey, called the Broadband Data Collection Survey, received 3,940 responses and aimed to get a more accurate picture of internet accessibility and create better maps of broadband availability.
This is the first step in a multi-phase process by the county and its partners called the Digital Inclusion Strategy to improve high-speed, affordable internet access across the county.
“It was critical for us to begin our own statistically validated study of broadband access needs because we don’t have time to wait for the FCC or the state to correct their datasets,” Paul said. Sachs, director of the Ottawa County Department of Strategic Impact. . “To address our county’s inequity in broadband access now, we needed better maps.”
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The survey, which was launched last summer, was conducted by Merit Network, Inc., an Ann Arbor-based internet research and education organization. The county and its partners funded the work.
Details of the investigation were made public last week, April 22.
Of the 10.5% of respondents who said they did not have broadband access, 72% of them said that there was no Internet service available at their address. The remaining 26% said the price was just too high.
Using the survey results, Ottawa County officials estimate that 11,737 of the county’s approximately 111,785 households do not have access to fixed high-speed internet.
Almost all of those without high-speed Internet access, about 97%, said they would be willing to pay between $25 and $101 for the service if it were available.
For the 89.5% of respondents with broadband, just under half, or around 40%, said they were satisfied with current provider options.
According to the FCC, an Internet connection must have a minimum download speed of 25 megabits per second (Mbps) and an upload speed of 3 Mbps to qualify as broadband.
About 74% of respondents had Internet service at or above this standard. About 15% with Internet were below.
Only 15% of respondents had service speeds above 100 Mbps download and 20 Mbps upload. County officials say the speed is the minimum standard recommended by industry experts and the US Congress.
The survey found big discrepancies with existing FCC data, which vastly overestimated the percentage of households with internet speeds at that 100 Mbps download/20 Mbps upload standard.
“Almost everyone in the industry agrees that the FCC data is inaccurate. Even the FCC admits it,” said Douglas Weber, president of Urban Wireless Solutions, one of the partners in the county digital inclusion strategy.
The next phase of work is to develop plans for how the county and the private and nonprofit sectors could bring affordable broadband across the county.
“We know it’s not economically feasible to extend fiber to every home and business in the county,” Weber said. “With wireless in some cases offering speeds comparable to fiber, it can be more cost effective.”
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