Frequently-Asked Questions (FAQ) about BroadbandCensus.com

FAQ May 1st, 2008

, Publisher, BroadbandBreakfast.com

What is BroadbandCensus.com?

BroadbandCensus.com is a new Web service that provides you, the consumer, with FREE information about broadband availability, competition, speeds and services in your local area. Type in your ZIP code, and immediately see the number of high-speed Internet companies that serve your ZIP code, and which of them BroadbandCensus.com has been able to identify.

You’ll see how other users rate their carriers, and actual download and upload speeds. You can see consumer comments in your area, and add your own. Or, you can look at all comments, ratings and speed tests for a particular company.

For my ZIP code, the site says, “The government says you have a total of 15 broadband services. The broadband census has found 1 broadband service(s).” What’s the reason for the discrepancy?

BroadbandCensus.com exists to collect and publish better data about broadband. The Federal Communications Commission collects the names of broadband carriers by ZIP code. The agency discloses the number of carriers, but refuses to release their names. BroadbandCensus.com is an attempt to go around the government and the carriers and use “crowdsourcing” to collect data directly from you, the consumer.

Why won’t the FCC release the data?

The FCC claims that disclosing the ZIP codes in which a company provides broadband service would be “likely to cause competitive harm” to the broadband providers. They say this information is proprietary and should not be released.

You can’t be serious! Are you?

Unfortunately, that’s the position your federal government has taken. An effort to obtain this information from the FCC under the Freedom of Information Act was unsuccessful. A federal district court judge sided with the government.

Don’t the carriers need to tell consumers where they operate in order to sell service?

Precisely. BroadbandCensus.com believes that data about the availability and competition of broadband service is already public information. Encourage your broadband provider to make this public information more readily available.

Can’t you collect local broadband data from other sources?

That’s what BroadbandCensus.com is doing. We collect information from multiple sources: state regulatory agencies, company Web sites and-most importantly-from you, the consumer and Internet user, through “crowdsourcing.”

My carrier isn’t listed in the Broadband Census. What should I do?

E-mail the carrier name to us at data@broadbandcensus.com. We’ll add the carrier to the Broadband Census as soon as we can verify that the carrier has a Web site which states that they offer broadband service.

Why do I get an error when I run your speed test?

Our beta-version speed test uses NDT (or Network Diagnostic Tool), which is open-source software created by Internet2. (Internet2 is a super-high-speed Internet backbone linking universities and other educational institutions.) The NDT speed test uses the Java programming language, so you’ll need to make sure that Java is installed in your Web browser. (Most browsers include Java.) Also, the speed test only allows one user to connect at a single time. We are working on expanding the number of server computers so that we can serve more Internet users simultaneously.

Why are you doing BroadbandCensus.com?

BroadbandCensus.com believes that America needs better information about broadband. The country currently ranks 15th in a global ranking of industrialized nations that have broadband. Most experts agree that better information about where high-speed Internet service is available-and where it isn’t-is the first step to improving. Knowing the names, speeds and prices of local broadband offers is crucial to ensuring that our broadband marketplace is transparent and competitive.

What do consumers get from BroadbandCensus.com?

We offer FREE information about broadband availability, competition, speeds and services to the public. By taking the Broadband Census and running our beta speed test, you will help improve America’s understanding of broadband. The site is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial License, which means that anyone may reproduce or retransmit the content on BroadbandCensus.com, so long as they attribute it to BroadbandCensus.com, and do so for non-commercial purposes.

Are you working with other broadband researchers?

Yes. Broadband Census has signed a contract with the Pew Internet & American Life Project, one of the most prestigious research studying broadband and the Internet. Our data will be incorporated into Pew’s 2008 annual broadband report. We are working with other academic researchers, too. Because we use a Creative Commons License, academic researchers may freely use our content, so long as they attribute it to BroadbandCensus.com.

Shouldn’t the government be doing this? Isn’t there some law to conduct a Broadband Census?

Some countries, such as Ireland, already release information about local broadband availability and competition on a public Web site. Whether the U.S. government should or shouldn’t map out broadband, it isn’t doing so. Under the “Broadband Census of America Act,” H.R. 3919, the Commerce Department would be required to create a publicly-available map of broadband deployment. The map would feature not only broadband availability, but “each commercial provider or public provider of broadband service capability.” H.R. 3919 passed the House of Representatives on November 13, 2007, but is currently pending in the Senate.

How do you differ from others Web sites offering speed tests or broadband mapping?

The focus of BroadbandCensus.com is on providing FREE information about broadband availability, competition, speeds and prices. Other Web sites only map out broadband availability, or only offer an unrecorded single-user speed test. BroadbandCensus.com provides a comprehensive and public record about all facets of end-user broadband data.

Are you non-profit?

Broadband Census LLC is organized as a Limited Liability Company in the Commonwealth of Virginia, which was formed to operate the BroadbandCensus.com Web service. While we believe that BroadbandCensus.com is serving an important public purpose, we hope to be self-sustaining by generating revenue.

How is BroadbandCensus.com funded?

BroadbandCensus.com has a contract with the Pew Internet & American Life Project, and has received funding from the Benton Foundation. See our supporters page.

Are there other supporters?

The eCorridors Program at Virginia Tech has provided encouragement and technical advice in taking the Broadband Census to a national audience, Internet2 has provided technical direction about deploying a speed test and the Network Policy Council of EDUCAUSE has provided technical advice and feedback. See our supporters page.

Do you take advertising?

BroadbandCensus.com runs GoogleAds image and text advertisements.

Who runs BroadbandCensus.com?

Drew Clark is the Executive Director of BroadbandCensus.com, and is the principal member of Broadband Census LLC, which was formed to launch this Web service. See the other members of the team. Drew is one of the toughest and most comprehensive technology journalists in Washington. He has more than 20 years of experience as reporter, editor and project manager for a variety of Web sites, magazines and newspapers. A more detailed bio can be found at DrewClark.com/about.

What’s next for the Broadband Census?

Broadband Census is working to take the Web site to the next level by adding detailed coverage maps, by allowing users to add to and edit the profiles about broadband carriers, and by spreading the word about why Internet users should come take the Broadband Census and speed test.

How can I help?

There are three simple things you can do to help:

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