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Brier Dudley offers a critical look at technology and business issues affecting the Northwest.

February 1, 2012 at 10:58 AM

New broadband report: State has more and faster service

It’s getting harder to say there’s a broadband crisis in Washington state.

More than 96 percent of homes in the state have broadband available with speeds of 3 megabits per second or faster, according to the second annual report from the state Department of Commerce’s broadband office.

Washington residents are also more likely to take advantage of available broadband. The state ranks third in the nation for broadband usage, or adoption of available services, with a 77 percent adoption rate. It trails Vermont and New Hampshire.

If you live in a metropolitan area, speeds are increasing dramatically. Available speeds jumped from under 10 Mbps in 2010 to 25 Mbps or more in populated areas along the Interstate 5 corridor and parts of Clark, Yakima and Spokane counties.

Altogether 79 percent of the state’s homes now have access to broadband with speeds of 25 Mbps or more, up from 76 pecent in 2010. This gain came largely because Comcast — which covers 62 percent of the state’s homes — upgraded its network over the past two years.

The number of households with no broadband available declined to 3.8 percent, down from 4.3 percent in 2010.

Another 2.3 percent can get service at speeds ranging only from 768 kilobits per second to 3 Mbps — “sufficient to send e-mails and stream a feature movie, but not fast enough to conduct high definition (HD) two-way telelearning or have multiple users viewing HD-quality video,” the report notes.

More improvements are on the way. Recipients of more than $165 million worth of federal grants to improve broadband access all began work on their projects last year, the report said.

To capitalize on the improvements, the state broadband office will now work on creating regional technology planning teams, holding a broadband applications contest and continuing to map broadband services.

Areas that lack broadband access include rugged terrain such as the foothills of the Cascades and sparsely populated areas with fewer than 20 residents per square mile.

Wireless broadband speeds are also increasing, and Washington has more competition among wireless providers than most states. The report said 53 percent of state residents have access to at least five wireless carriers, more than double the national average of 24.8 percent of the population with access to at least five carriers.

Here’s a map from the report:

broadband report 2012.jpg

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