Study: Most Americans lack choice in high-speed Internet providers

Less than 4 in 10 Americans have multiple options when choosing a broadband Internet provider offering higher than average speeds, according to a report Tuesday from the Commerce Department.

The report from the department's Economic and Statistics Administration highlights a point Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler has been making for months — there are few options for consumers looking for higher Web speeds.

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"As more and more commerce and information move online, we risk further widening the digital divide if access to affordable, higher speed Internet doesn’t keep pace," said the department's chief economist Sue Helper, noting that more competition will reduce prices. 

The report noted that the five largest Internet providers control three-quarters of the market, while the four largest mobile providers account for 92 percent of customers.

The FCC recently updated its broadband definition to reflect download speeds of 10 megabits per second (Mbps), for providers seeking funding through agency programs. But Wheeler has said even that is not enough to capture the increasing demand for streaming and downloads. 

The report finds that 94 percent of people have at least one broadband provider in their area that offers 10 Mbps speeds, and 70 percent have the option of two or more providers at that speed. 

Eighty-six percent of people have a provider in their area that offers 25 Mbps speeds. But only 37 percent have an option of two or more providers. 

Those percentages decrease as speeds increase. 

Forty-one percent of people do not have access to any provider that offers 100 Mbps speeds, while only 3 percent of the population has access to super-fast speeds of 1 gigabit per second. 

On the mobile side, the report found 90 percent of individuals have access to at least two mobile Internet providers in their area offering 10 Mbps, while 70 percent had three or more. 

The report uses 2013 data from the National Telecommunications and Information Administration and 2010 Census data.