Illinois sees substantial growth in residential broadband connection

July Index Update

Broadband access and penetration support economic growth and dynamism in Illinois, connecting business and households to global markets and communities. The January 2013 edition of the Index revealed Illinois’ progress in expanding high-speed broadband throughout the state, highlighting significant growth in new business connections.

New data released last month by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) reveal that nationwide, total (business and residential) reportable fixed-location broadband connections grew at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 15 percent from June 2003 to June 2013.

This improvement is reflected in Illinois, which has seen the number of residential broadband connections increase significantly since 2010. While the state lags behind the U.S. average, Illinois is still a leader in the Midwest by percent of households with fixed-broadband connections. As broadband penetration is a function of several factors, including network coverage, geographic size, population density, and income, Illinois must continue to make substantial investments in technology infrastructure to bring access to more households throughout the state.

Growth of residential broadband connections in Chicago and Illinois

A series of maps generated by World Business Chicago (WBC) using FCC data illustrates the progress in expanding broadband connections from June 2010 to June 2013. Overall, many tracts in the Chicago region saw a substantial increase in the number of residential connections per 1,000 households. While some communities face continued challenges—particularly those with underserved or low-income populations—the majority of Chicago’s neighborhoods showed consistent improvement since 2010.

Map of Chicago residential fixed broadband connections

On the statewide level, Illinois also saw a substantial increase in residential fixed-broadband subscriptions. From June 2010 to June 2013, the number of residential broadband connections in Illinois increased more than 70 percent, to 9.2 million connections.

Map of Illinois residential fixed broadband connections

Many of these new connections were in areas of the state with very low initial levels of Internet penetration. The current gaps in subscribership can be partly correlated to limited broadband coverage in such areas; for a map of Illinois showing maximum advertised connection speed (and highlighting areas lacking coverage), seethis map from Broadband Illinois.

Illinois’ performance is in line with national average

With 69 percent of households connected to broadband, Illinois is near the midpoint compared with the United States overall. The nation’s top performers have achieved household subscription percentages of greater than 80 percent—though it should be noted that the top five states by residential broadband connections are also among the smallest states by land area.

US states ranked by percentage of households with fixed connection

When compared with other Midwest states, Illinois outperformed all but Minnesota by percent of households with residential fixed-line connections in 2013. From 2010 to 2013, the percentage of households with fixed connections increased 5.2–7.4 percentage points across all Midwest states, near the national average of 7.4 percentage points. Still, most Midwest states remain below the national average in share of households with residential broadband connections.

Midwest states ranked by percentage of households with fixed connection

Households still lead in broadband connections—but business’ share is on the rise

Households account for more than 80 percent of broadband connections in Illinois. However, according to the FCC report, business’ share of total connections in Illinois has increased, from 15.4 percent in 2010 to 18.6 percent in 2013. Interestingly, for every state in the union, households account for approximately 80 to 90 percent of fixed connections; the outlier is Washington, D.C., where just 52.8 percent are residential connections. According to a recent study, more people across the country are working from home, suggesting that the changing nature of the workforce might influence the ratio of business-to-home connections in the coming years.

Looking forward: Continuing to build the infrastructure for broadband

Public- and private-sector initiatives are addressing some of the challenges to expanding broadband access. Earlier this month, the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO) released an economic development plan that included a strategy to increase access to broadband across the state, particularly in poor or rural areas. Currently, the State of Illinois, through the Illinois Jobs Now! program, is in the process of constructing more than 4,100 miles of new fiber optic cable. Public-private partnerships in urban areas such as Comcast’s Internet Essentials can also help provide access to underserved segments.

In addition, a forthcoming initiative from WBC and various city and nonprofit partners, called the Smart Chicago Challenge, is aimed at addressing inclusive digital connectivity in the region by increasing Internet access and expanding digital training. To support grants that will facilitate intense community engagement and digital programming in multiple neighborhoods, the initiative is actively seeking investors, with the goal to launch the program in 2015. Contact Laura Williams at WBC for more information.

The Index will continue to provide updates on broadband connection trends in Illinois as more data become available.

Tags: broadband, broadband adoption, growth

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