The Broad and the Beautiful

It took awhile, but access to faster Internet service is finally beginning to even out across all geographic regions of the United States.

A new study on broadband growth conducted by comScore, Inc., a digital marketing intelligence firm, finds big gains for broadband in rural areas. As of the end of 2nd Quarter 2009, an estimated 75% of rural households with Internet access now have broadband service. (Rural markets are defined as those having less than 10,000 population).

Two years ago, comScore counted only 59% of rural households connected to the Internet having broadband service.

Not surprisingly, large metropolitan areas with populations over 50,000 have higher broadband penetration (92% of Internet households), but this percentage is up only a couple points in the past year.

Who’s providing these broadband services? A just released study by Leichtman Research Group found that 19 service providers account for well over 90% of the U.S. market – the largest among them being Comcast and Time Warner for cable … and AT&T and Verizon for telephone.

Indeed, some metro markets are beginning to approach broadband saturation. For instance, in the New York metropolitan area comScore finds 96% of all Internet households are using broadband. It’s 92% in Chicagoland, and nearly 90% in Philadelphia and San Francisco-Oakland-San José.

The Internet broadband penetration for the country as a whole — at nearly 70 million households now — is estimated to be over 85%, meaning that rural areas are still relatively under-served. But the differential is shrinking quickly. Chalk up yet another instance where regional differences are disappearing – thus making rural markets more attractive not just to consumers, but also for rural-based businesses and for companies that rely on far-flung employees who telecommute from home.

It makes saving money on gasoline and avoiding rush-hour traffic snarls more attractive than ever!

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