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Turns Out Only About Half of the U.S. Can Actually Stream Video From Netflix

If there’s an inherent bias in blogging, it’s that the blogger and their audience, are necessarily in a place that has a steady internet connection. Don’t got an internet connection? You’re way less likely to blog, read a blog, comment on a blog, or get into the ideas that regularly sweep the internet. The internet idea that’s probably most relevant to this particular news item?

That the world is ready for streaming, a la carte television to become the default way that folks get their cable subscriptions delivered to them.

This week the FCC released their eigth Broadband Progress Report, on the state of broadband internet service in the U.S., and they’ve collected some pretty interesting info. While broadband internet is available in 96% of American households, only 60% of Americans actually subscribe to the service. And of those 60%, only a minority of them actually get download speeds as high as 4 megabits per second, the minimum required speed for actual broadband as defined by the FCC. Most households are getting along with 768 kilobits a second. It’s hard to say whether this is because of subscriber preference, or because, well, many cable companies don’t exactly work very hard to guarantee that the speed they advertise is the speed you get.

As Livescience points out, the bare minimum download speed for Netflix videos is 500 kbps, and that’s for particularly poor quality video. Now, I can’t wait for the day when I can sign up for a television service that allows a la carte purchases of shows rather than bundles of channels, but at the same time, I couldn’t fault Netflix for their price increase when literally every company they need to deal with to remain solvent would rather they be out of business. If streaming internet video is simply not an option for the majority of Americans, the day of streaming access to popular television on a show by show basis may be further off than we’d like, and there may be some hurdles in the way that have nothing to do with big entertainment companies concerns over piracy or ad revenue.

(via Live Science.)


  • Andrea_R

    In Canada I expect they’d find similar and the reason is the ISPs. Anyone who IS using the top speeds is considered bandwidth hogs and unusual.

    So a bit of a catch-22 there. You’ve got people unaware they can stream stuff, that may or may not have a connection to handle it (or can’t afford a better connection or it’s not available) and then if they are starting to top up, their ISP gets cranky and throttles.

    Time for the ISPs to clue in mostly.

  • Anonymous

    “Most households are getting along with 768 kilobits a second.”

    Yep, that’s me. I don’t enjoy it, but not enough to shell out more money.

  • Anonymous

    people who live in rural areas deal with this digital divide, too

  • Amanda Wan

    I find that HD only streams perfectly on my new Windows 7 PC. I have to stream Netflix without HD on the older Vista machines or they have hiccups.

  • Anonymous

    I have the feeling that if they were to look at people under the age of 40 or 50, the percentage of broadband subscribers would go way up. For the past two years or so almost the only thing I ever watch is streaming.

  • Jerilyn Nighy

    It’s shameful that the U.S. doesn’t have public utility fiber optic or FTTx everywhere. We need a new WPA so we can join Japan in the present.

  • Christine Mooers

    …aside from which, Netflix videos? If it’s a new release it’s only available on disk.

  • Anonymous

    As one of those people, yes, exactly.

  • Josh Hitch

    The statistics in this case are somewhat misleading, IMO. Many people who have lower internet speeds also aren’t paying for much High Definition content anywhere else. As a result, we’re used to standard definition, and are therefore comfortable streaming SD from Netflix which cuts down on the need for bandwidth considerably. I get about 1 Mbps and stream constantly with little to no difficulty.

  • Smoke Tetsu

    I live in a rural area and we where only just recently offered an upgrade to 3Mbps from 1.5Mbps. Still not broadband apparently according to the FCC but it was still an upgrade for us.

    But yeah, many people on the internet who live in areas that can get higher speeds seem to always assume the average is a lot higher and that everyone can have the fastest speeds so long as they pony up the dough. Well, here we can’t get faster by offering say.. the phone company more dough short of getting a T1+ line which is not practical for a residence with not a lot of money.

    I mostly get my HD content from other sources than streaming. Most streaming services don’t have AC3 or DTS audio anyway.

  • Anonymous

    Another rural “broadband is not available” person. We can’t stream, but just get the Netflix by mail.