Oregon Broadband Study

Getting the intelligence needed for broadband infrastructure investments

“Quote”  – Christopher Tamarin, Telecommunications Strategist, Oregon Broadband Office

The Oregon Broadband Office Need

The Oregon Broadband Office (OBO) within Business Oregon, an agency of the State of Oregon, was eager to more clearly identify the areas within the state that continue to be unserved and underserved by broadband services. There was urgency to develop this intelligence in advance of the 2020 State legislative session starting in February 2020, with the opportunity to influence legislative decisions related to broadband investments. Broadband Oregon sought broadband data collection, analysis and best practice research for the development of strategies and public investments in broadband infrastructure and broadband adoption and utilization.

One of the challenges for Business Oregon was a reliance solely on broadband data provided by the FCC through the periodic form 477 reporting by telecom providers. While the FCC broadband data is comprehensive to the census block level, it can be ambiguous with respect to service coverage within census blocks. Broadband Oregon sought the best information available to identify the unserved and underserved ares in the state and estimate the cost to address these areas. In today’s marketplace, unserved is considered to be service of less than 10 Mbps download and 1 Mbps upload (10/1). Underserved is less than the current FCC recommendation of 25 Mbps download and 3 Mbps upload speed (25/3).

Broadband Oregon also sought insights into bets practices for addressing broadband gaps and methods for funding broadband investments that don’t rely solely on State financial resources. All of this research and analysis was required to be completed within a three-month period to meet the legislative deadlines.

What SNG provided

SNG gathered a strong team with a wide range of broadband experience, including; broadband data analysis and mapping, broadband data collection, and broadband planning expertise. Through this team SNG provided data from additional independent sources to supplement the latest FCC data, including fiber infrastructure and service data from our project partner GeoTel Communications (GTC). SNG worked with Business Oregon to deploy our proven eSolutions Benchmarking (eSB) data collection tools to gather data directly from households, businesses, and organizations across Oregon. Through the eSB data collection, SNG gathered connectivity and speed data, as well as other vital data on broadband utilization, from more than 3,600 households and 500 businesses in a compressed 4-week period.

SNG worked with GTC and  the Internet-Is-Infrastructure (I3) project to analyse the multiple data sources at the census block level to identify which Oregon census blocks were unserved or underserved. Using the same methods, two additional categories were identified at the census block level – Basic Broadband, being between 25/3 and 100 Mbps symmetrical, and Future Ready broadband above 100 Mbps symmetrical (100/100). The team also identified the best terrestrial technologies available by census block. among fiber, cable, fixed wireless, and DSL, since the goal was to look at providing fixed broadband services for Oregonians.

The census block level analysis enabled the creation of geographic “heat maps” of the four speed categories and of the four fixed technologies. Additional heat maps were created to show the presence of fiber infrastructure across the State. This same data was provided to Business Oregon as mappable data to include in the online, interactive Oregon broadband Map.

The results of the analysis were also aggregated at the state senate district level as well as at the county level to show where the similarities and disparities in broadband exist. Detailed analysis of the research combined with extended team’s insights and experience were documented in the Oregon Statewide Broadband Assessment and Best Practices Study report, which was used for submission the State legislative committees for review and consideration in developing broadband legislation.

Results and Outcomes

The analysis of multiple data sources at the census block level revealed that while 46 percent of populated census blocks are unserved or underserved, these census blocks are in rural and sparsely populated areas representing about five (5) percent of Oregon’s population. This represents approximately 148,000 people and 60,000 households in rural Oregon. Of the other 95 percent of Oregonians, 67.4 percent live in areas with Future Ready broadband (>100/100) and 27.6 percent have access to Basic Broadband (>25/3). While this is a good news story at the statewide level, there continue to be broadband issues to address across the state, including both rural and urban areas.

  • There remain pockets within census blocks that do not have access to Basic Broadband or Future Ready broadband that are difficult to identify with the current FCC data reporting methods.
  • Of the 27.6 percent of Oregonians (1.14 million people) with access to Basic Broadband, the majority of those areas have access to cable or DSL technologies that do not offer Future Ready broadband.

SNG data collection research also found that:

  • 28 percent of households report that their internet connection speed is not fast enough, with 38 percent reporting occasional or frequent problems.
  • 49 percent of Oregon household would definitely or very likely relocate in order to get a better level of broadband service. This likelihood increases with younger age groups and higher incomes, putting broadband-deficient communities at risk.
  • Three quarters of households and businesses across Oregon are very likely to change service providers to get better broadband services, another strong indication of dissatisfaction with current services in many areas.

The high cost estimate to address the unserved and underserved areas with fiber infrastructure alone strongly indicates that a mix of technologies will be required to provide better broadband connectivity to such rural areas. This will require a much more detailed analysis at a local level to determine where FTTH may be cost effective versus using fixed wireless with fiber backhaul. The private sector cannot be expected to solve this problem alone as the community benefits of broadband are largely off-balance sheet to them. The rural-urban digital divide in Oregon is not likely to decrease unless public investments are made in digital infrastructure and transformation, requiring State policies, strategies, and programs in Oregon.

Findings and results are detailed in the Oregon Statewide Broadband Assessment and Best Practices Study Report.

As a result of SNG’s research, analysis, and report Business Oregon …

What Business Oregon said

Feedback on the Oregon Statewide Broadband Assessment and Best Practices Study Report: “SNG provided …”

Experience of working with SNG: “We have …”

Putting the Oregon Study to work: “….”

Chris Tamarin, Telecommunications Strategist
Oregon Broadband Office