The New York Times Highlights Consumers' Need for Carrier-Specific Broadband Data

Expert Opinion February 11th, 2009

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WASHINGTON, February 11, 2009 – The New York Times highlights and our efforts to build a publicly-available database of the speeds, prices, availability, reliability and competition in the local broadband marketplace.

After introducing the $350 million in the fiscal stimulus for mapping broadband, and noting that other groups like Connected Nation have been comfortable working within the confidentiality restrictions imposed by telephone and cable companies, reporter Saul Hansell quotes me as follows:

“We ask carriers on a specific location basis what services they are providing,” said Drew Clark, the founder of Broadband Census, a Web site that is trying to build its own database of what Internet service is offered where. “They argue with a straight face that it is proprietary information where they offer service, even though every consumer who has broadband service knows who they get it from and where they live,” Mr. Clark said.

Hansell continues, suggesting the importance for the consumer of having publicly-available information of carrier-specific information. He doesn’t highlight it in this piece, but other nations — such as the government of Ireland — have compiled exactly such a list on a government web site.

Hansell continues:

The Internet providers say they are afraid that if they published a map of the services they offered, competitors would know exactly what pitch to send to which customers. Yes, those rivals have other ways to find out where they do business, but none are as easy as downloading a complete list.

Why not publish information that will let companies offer Americans better deals on Internet service than the ones they have now? And for that matter, if the government has a reason to collect a list of all the services available, why shouldn’t it let consumers look up that information to help them shop around? wholeheartedly agrees.

“If the federal government is about to spend up to $9 billion on broadband,” [Mr. Clark] said, “it needs to know with a high degree of specificity who is providing broadband now, what technologies are being employed and at what speeds.

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