By Art Reisman, APconnections CTO (www.netequalizer.com)
Have you ever visited and used WiFi in a small-town coffee shop?
Do you take classes at a local university?
What got us thinking on this subject was the flurry of articles on net neutrality — a hot-button issue in the media these days. With each story, the reporters usually rush to get quotes and statements from all the usual suspects — Verizon, Google, Comcast, Time Warner, etc. It’s as if these providers ARE the Internet. However, in this article, we’ll show there is a significant loose conglomerate of smaller providers that, taken together, create a much larger entity than any of these traditional players.
These smaller organizations buy bulk bandwidth from tier-1 providers such as Level 3 and then redistribute it to their customers. In other words, they are your ISP. To give you a rough idea on just how large this segment is, we have worked up some numbers with conservative estimates.
There are roughly 121,000 libraries in the US. Some are very large with thousands of patrons per day and some are very small with perhaps just a handful of daily visitors. We estimate that half provide some form of wireless Internet service, and of those, they would average 300 unique users per month. That gives us approximately 18 million patrons using the Internet in libraries per year.
There are approximately 15 million students attending higher education institutions, with K-through-12 schools making up another 72 million students. If all the university students, and perhaps half of the K-through-12 students use the Internet at their schools, that gives us another 45 million users.
In 2004, half the hotels in the U.S. had broadband service. It would be safe to assume that this numbers is over 90 percent in 2010. There are approximately 130,000 hotels listed in the US. With an average occupancy per night of 30 guests per hotel (very conservative), we can easily conclude that 100 million people use the Internet from U.S. hotels over the course of a year.
Lastly there are 10,000 small regional ISPs and cable companies serving smaller and rural customers. These companies average about 1,000 customers, covering another 10 million people.
Yes, some of these users are being double counted as many obviously have multiple sources to the Internet, but the point is, with conservative estimates, we were able to easily estimate 100 million users through these alternate channels, making this segment much larger than any single provider.
Therefore, when discussing the issue of net neutrality, or any regulation or privacy debate concerning the Internet, one should look beyond just the big-name providers. There’s a good chance you’ll find your own online experience regularly extends beyond these high-profile ISPs.
NetEqualizer bandwidth controllers are used in hotels, libraries, schools, WiFi hotspots and businesses around the world and have aided in the Internet experience of over 100 million users since 2003.