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Study: Broadband Prices Have Dropped Over Past Half-Decade

Stephouse Networks
(Image credit: Stephouse Networks)

Broadband prices have dropped, in some cases significantly, over the past half-decade, according to an analysis by Broadband Now, which compares broadband services. 

The White House has been pushing its broadband subsidies in part by arguing affordable broadband is “out of reach“ for many in the country, but the trend —thanks to technology and economics — is already providing a tailwind toward greater affordability. 

The study of 50 national and regional broadband providers found that since 2016, prices decreased for all major download speeds (25 Megabits per second through 1 Gigabit per second and above, and over cable, fiber, digital subscriber line (DSL) and wireless networks. 

Broadband Now concedes that it is typical for technology to become cheaper as manufacturing improves and providers scale up, but decreasing prices are decreasing prices regardless of the reason. 

The study found that the highest speeds, and thus priciest plans, have fallen the most by an average of almost $60, or 42%, for 500 Mbps-plus service. 

That was followed by a $34.39 (35%) drop for 200-400 Mbps; $32.35 (33%) for 100-199 Mbps; and by $8.80 (14%) for 25-99 Mbps (the FCC's defines high-speed broadband as 25 Mbps-plus). 

The White House has put a thumb on the scale for fiber in its multibillion-dollar broadband subsidy programs and the study suggests that from a pure cost standpoint, that would make sense. “Fiber tends to be cheaper than cable [excluding promotional pricing] for most high-speed plans, even as fiber is generally considered to be the most robust and highest quality type of wired internet connection,” the study concluded. 

The White House is also factoring competition into its broadband availability and cost equation, something the study also backs up with the point that local prices are “reflective of competition.”

Among the ISPs studied were Comcast, Cox Communications, AT&T, Mediacom Communications, Verizon and Google Fiber. ■

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.