How to make sure you have adequate internet service when buying a home

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If you live in a city or suburb, chances are you won’t even question the availability of internet access.

But when the pandemic opened up more remote work opportunities and buyers started looking for homes in rural areas and remote resorts, some of them found that internet access wasn’t available. not acquired. While nearly 86% of American households today have an Internet subscription, 12.2% of American households on average do not have Internet access, according to a recent report by LendingTree.

The report found that Arkansas, Mississippi and New Mexico are the three states with the highest share of households without internet access, with an average of 19.17% without an internet connection.

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For more context and advice on internet access, we turned to Shirley Bloomfield, CEO of NTCA-The Rural Broadband Association; and Robert Gilbert, CEO of Fiber Homes, which has a platform to help consumers find communities with broadband service. Both responded via email and their responses have been edited.

How many places in the United States do not have high-speed Internet access?

Gilbert: While great strides are being made in bridging America’s digital divide, it’s estimated that more than 20 million homes still don’t have access to what would be considered high-speed internet. The majority of these houses are in the most rural areas of the country.

Even though the focus is on expanding high-speed Internet access, if someone is looking to buy or rent a home outside of a major metropolitan market, it is far from guaranteed that they will can get the level of high-speed Internet they need.

flowery field: This is a harder question to answer than it should be due to complications with definitions and gaps in broadband coverage mapping. The answer first depends on how you define broadband access. The FCC previously reported that just over four percent of Americans lack access to broadband speeds of 25 megabits per second (Mbps), with eight percent not having access to 100 Mbps. But even as work is underway to improve them, current FCC maps measure broadband based solely on advertised speeds and they admittedly overestimate coverage. So we all have to work with estimates – but it’s clear that millions of Americans don’t have access to robust broadband, and it’s also clear that many unserved and underserved parts of the country are in rural America. But there are also hundreds of community broadband providers in the United States that serve some of the hardest-to-reach parts of rural America. In these areas, connectivity is excellent. For example, 75% of our members provide fiber-to-the-home connectivity, which is not always the case even in urban areas.

How can homebuyers find out about internet access before they buy? Is this information usually found in an MLS listing?

Gilbert: Unlike utilities, Internet access is rarely included in Multiple Listing Service (MLS) listings, even though access to reliable broadband is increasingly crucial, especially for remote workers. As a result, some MLSs are working to make this data available to their members and consumers. For instance,

Triangle MLS, located near Raleigh, North Carolina, is working with Fiber Homes to integrate the information directly into their data service so consumers can search for homes with broadband as easily as they search for three bedrooms and three bathrooms. baths. The hope is that more MLS across the country will follow their lead.

Is there a way to test the proper functioning of the Internet before making an offer to buy a home?

Gilbert: Short of physically performing a speed test on your device at the property, asking the seller or seller’s agent is the best option, but not always the most reliable. For example, the current resident may not know what options are available at the address or even what service or speed they are currently enjoying.

The most reliable way to find out would be to identify and contact the local Internet Service Provider directly and find out what types of Internet services are available specifically at that address. If they have access to fiber optics, the buyer can be sure that they will be getting the fastest, most consistent Internet available. If it has cable Internet access, the quality of service may still be good, but not guaranteed. If the house only has DSL or satellite access, the quality of the internet may very well be below the standard the buyer expects or needs.

flowery field: Testing a connection before buying a seat can be tricky. At NTCA, we recommend that you research the Internet Service Providers (ISPs) in a community and their offerings before choosing a home. In particular, if the ISP is a community business or cooperative, it has a vested interest in providing the best possible services and speeds, as it also lives and raises families in the areas it serves.

What is the basic level of Internet service someone needs if they plan to work from home or if they are streaming movies or playing video games?

flowery field: Years ago, a download speed of 4 Mbps was considered sufficient for the average consumer, and the FCC more recently set 25 Mbps as a “baseline” for broadband. But the pandemic has highlighted just how much we need more robust and reliable connectivity everywhere. When life moved almost exclusively online, we saw parents working from home and kids on Zoom for school, all at the same time. You need bandwidth to be able to do all of this. Although every household is a little different, the NTCA has recommended that the FCC set the standard at 100/100 Mbps so that we can better keep up with the ever-changing level of services that consumers need.

Gilbert: If your household likes to use multiple devices at once (for example, if you want your kids to stream while you’re on a video call for work), you’ll probably want at least 250 Mbps download speed and 100 Mbps download speed. . Remember, the more speed you have, the easier it will be to use multiple devices in your home without buffering, lagging, or dropping connections.

If a home doesn’t have high-speed internet, is there anything a buyer or homeowner can do about it?

Gilbert: There are not many options in this case. They can contact their local ISP to bring the service to the house, but often the homeowner will have to pay some or all of the construction costs associated with the service to build their house, which can be very expensive. Satellite internet is available in most places, but upload and download speeds will be much lower than fiber internet and other options.

flowery field: If finding a well-connected home is not an option, I recommend contacting the local ISP to see if broadband service can be provided in the future. Fiber is the gold standard (and the most suitable technology for future bandwidth demands), but other options such as satellite and fixed wireless connections can provide at least a basic level of connectivity when the fiber is not available.