Source: Luther Turmelle, Hearst Connecticut Media Group
A new survey released this week indicates Connecticut consumers want broadband internet service that is more affordable and reliable.
The Connecticut Conference of Municipalities on Monday released the results of its first-ever statewide broadband survey, which was conducted between May and September. Joe DeLong, CCM's executive director and chief executive officer, said educating consumers about what is available to them in terms of service is critical.
"The survey demonstrated a disconnect between what consumers have versus what they actually need,” DeLong said, adding that more than 2,000 state residents responded to the survey. “One bottom line is Connecticut residents remain unsure what their internet provider’s promised speeds are. We need to strategize and collaborate with the state on next steps using data to leverage federal dollars in targeted areas of need.”
To illustrate his point, DeLong said 37.2 percent of those surveyed were unaware of the advertised speeds they are paying for, and 23.7 percent reported dissatisfaction due to speeds. In addition, nearly 300 respondents said affordability and reliability concerns prevented them from using the internet to work from home or engage in telehealth and remote education.
Burt Cohen, a staff attorney with Connecticut's Office of Consumer Counsel and the state's Broadband Policy Coordinator, said CCM's study shows that from a consumer standpoint, "one of the concerning issues is that many consumers may not know the various tiers of service, i.e., download and upload speeds that are available to them and correspondingly whether they are subscribing to the speeds that best fit their personal needs."
"This issue may be addressed by the soon-to-be finalized FCC broadband disclosure labels containing information to potential consumers that must be listed by all internet access providers as of July 1," Cohen said. "The second issue is the high amount of survey respondents — nearly 45 percent — indicating that service reliability is a major problem. Based on my analysis, service reliability can be addressed by increased regulatory oversight, given that wire line broadband service is provided over wires, equipment and facilities that are located over or under public streets and highways through a license that currently has no expiration date."
Eric Gjede, vice president of public policy for the Connecticut Business & Industry Association, said the survey shows that addressing "affordability and the cost of living in the state is something we need lawmakers to be focused on this session."
The New England Connectivity and Telecommunications Association represents companies that provide internet service providers, including cable television, in Connecticut and the other five states in the region. Officials with the Massachusetts trade group were not immediately available for comment Tuesday.
Donna Hamzy Carroccia, CCM's chief strategy officer, said that while the data shows Connecticut "is doing a good job in terms of expanding the availability of high-speed internet," there are tweaks that can make it more widely available in rural areas of the state.
"There is a need for public-private partnership to fill in areas that aren't currently being reached now, to fill in that last mile," she said.
The goal of the survey is to help support municipal officials in Connecticut's 169 cities and towns as they try to secure federal funds for broader, more equitable deployment of broadband across Connecticut and to increase reliability in areas where there is already access, according to CCM officials.