High-quality broadband is available to everyone in Marin
Key performance indicators
- Increase the number of households served by broadband using 2020 CPUC data as a baseline and comparing it to updated CPUC data and surveys of Marin’s households
- Improve residents’ and businesses’ ratings of internet quality and reliability using the Needs Assessment findings as a baseline and comparing it to future survey results
Assist with the deployment of universally accessible public and public/private broadband services throughout Marin
Implementing this strategy requires designing Marin’s broadband network and facilitating deployment of broadband infrastructure. Three high-level actions enable increasing broadband deployment throughout Marin.
Improve the quality, reliability, resiliency, and safety of Marin’s broadband services
Implementing this strategy requires collaboration among broadband service providers, regulatory agencies, network infrastructure and asset owners, and public agencies. Also, quality, reliability, resiliency, and safety must be incorporated into Marin’s broadband network design. Two high-level actions advance improvements to broadband quality throughout Marin.
Increase access to affordable broadband service
Implementing this strategy requires collaboration among broadband service providers, funding sources, non-profits, and public agencies to identify opportunities, manage and coordinate services, and market availability.
While our research found that five (5) geographic areas of Marin most acutely experience a lack of affordable access to broadband, findings also show that lack of availability, inconsistent service levels, and lack of provider competition exist in Marin, even in some affluent areas. The gap analysis revealed Marin’s two primary providers offer internet service to approximately 99% of the households in urban Marin with varying levels of service, speeds, and pricing. Surveys revealed that cost and lack of available service are the top two reasons Marin residents give when they do not have broadband at home.
70% of respondents in subsidized housing identify cost as the primary reason they do not have broadband at home.
—Marin Housing Authority Residents Survey
According to the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) 2020 estimates, Marin County has 591 households that are unserved, i.e., either have no internet service available in their community or service that is below the 25 Mbps download/3 Mbps upload (25/3) broadband speed policy set by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). Of those 591 households, 208 have service at or below 6 Mbps down/1 Mbps up (6/1). These households are deemed underserved. This data is questionable since it is self-reported by internet service providers and the threshold for identifying what households are “served” is low. Detractors believe that the number of un- and under-served households is higher than reported.
This issue appears to be the case in Marin. For example, in a small number of cases, our survey respondents’ speed tests for households in served areas reported results as low as 681 kb/s down and 126 kb/s up. As such, these findings show that even “served” households, i.e., those identified as receiving at least 25/3 or higher, may experience speeds below the FCC standard for broadband. Given the sample size, more speed testing is required to better define un- and under-served households.
Our research also identified issues with quality of service. Survey responses about the quality of service revealed that despite paying 5.82% more for internet only service than the $70/month national average, only 55% of residents rated their overall internet service as good or excellent. When asked about internet slowdowns and outages, over 61% of respondents indicated that they occurred several times a year.
Outages and inconsistent cell services hinder emergency response and communication during disasters.
—Public Safety Officials
While this Plan’s actions aim to address issues of pricing, availably, and service, existing laws constrain state and local governments from regulating the activities of private providers. These and other findings show that high-quality, affordable broadband services are not as available as Marin prefers. Deploying broadband infrastructure, adopting quality standards, and increasing affordability will help to address these issues.