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BroadbandCensus.com, One Web Day, and the Quest for Broadband Transparency

in Broadband's Impact/Expert Opinion by

WASHINGTON, August 25, 2009 – One year ago, BroadbandCensus.com joined in support of One Web Day. We are very happy to do so again this year, in 2009.

Both for BroadbandCensus.com and for broadband policy and internet technology, a lot has changed in the past year. We lauched BroadbandCensus.com in January 2008 with the simple and straitforward goal of making basic broadband information — information about Broadband Speeds, Prices, Availability, Reliability and Competition — public and freely available to users of broadband services. Many wondered why this was necessary. In the lead-up to our “Broadband Census for America Conference,” in September 2008, we were still highlighting the importance of broadband and of solid broadband data in the economy and in society.

With the passage of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act in February 2009, much of that focus seems very old. Almost overnight, sometime between mid-November and mid-December 2008, everyone seemed to agree that broadband, and broadband data in particular, was essential. BroadbandCensus.com gain a new lease on life. It was enough just to keep up with the breakneck pace of news, analysis, regulation and broadband stimulus deadlines.

BroadbandCensus.com has been there to guide many through the process. And we have launched a number of new activities that have helped make BroadbandCensus.com one key hub of debate about broadband. In particular, in October 2008 we launched the Broadband Breakfast Club, a monthly on-the-record discussion group. See http://broadbandcensus.com/2009/01/webcasts-of-broadband-breakfast-club-now-available-online/. Although the next meeting is on Tuesday, September 15, the club generally meets on the second Tuesday of each month at Clyde’s of Gallery Place, here in Washington. We’ve had a very impressive lineup at these events, which is now entering new phase with a series, Setting the Table for a National Broadband Plan, that will run from from September 15, 2009, to February 9, 2010.

Looking Backward at One Web Day 2008

In my post last One Web Day, I wrote about the importance of broadband, and about how I ventured into the broadband policy arena from my perch as a daily technology journalist. I also described some of the background for the Take the Broadband Census questionnaire that we have been using to collect information about broadband users’ coverage, speeds, and satisfaction:

The momentum that you have helped to create behind BroadbandCensus.com has put us at the center of the debate about internet data. We are building from this marvelous opportunity as we seek an open and public broadband census. On Monday, September 22, One Web Day will help draw further attention to these efforts. We aim to continue the effort throughout the week until Friday, September 26 and beyond.

Earlier this month we announced Broadband Census for America, a conference that will be held at the American Association for the Advancement of Science, at 1200 New York Avenue NW, Washington, DC, on September 26, [2008,] from 8:30 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. More details about the conference, the program committee and pricing is available here.

“Broadband Census for America” will be sponsored by BroadbandCensus.com, Carnegie Mellon University, the University of Texas at Austin’s Robert S. Strauss Center and Virginia Tech’s eCorridors program. A member of the Embassy of Ireland has confirmed his participation as a keynote speaker. He will inform an American audience of academics, state officials and telecom policy advocates about how the Irish have done their broadband census. Hint: see http://broadband.gov.ie. We urge you to consider attending.

I hope you are wondering what you can do to help this effort. If you are, we’ve got three requests for you on our Get Involved page:

  • Take the Broadband Census and Speed Test
  • Grab a Button for Your Blog
  • Join one of BroadbandCensus.com’s Committees

Also, if you would like to blog about broadband, and about broadband data, on BroadbandCensus.com, please feel free to drop me an e-mail: drew at broadbandcensus.com. We’d be more than happy to include bloggers for BroadbandCensus.com!

We look forward to working with all of your in the run-up to One Web Week, and helping all of us to better understand the true state of broadband competition in our communities, our states, our country and our world.

Evolving Role for BroadbandCensus.com, in News and Data

Now that everyone agrees that solid broadband data truly is essential to crafting a national broadband policy, what do we all do about that?

In the speech that Ben Scott of Free Press has given around Washington about broadband policy, he describes broadband as a “motherhood and apple pie” sort of issue. Everyone loves broadband, everyone wants better broadband, and everyone seeks to boost broadband availability more widely. But the result is a drama without the main actors, or without conflict.

We know that there are conflicts, of course. There are big ones just beneath the surface of the broadband policy debate. None is starker that the divide between the broadband providers and the broadband users.

BroadbandCensus.com has no particular brief for or against carriers. Rather, for us, the key role lurking behind the scenes is the centrality of transparency and openness: We’ve always believed that “A National Broadband Plan Needs a National Broadband Mashup,” and we discussed this in the June 8, 2009, filing that we made at the Federal Communications Commission: http://broadbandcensus.com/2009/06/broadbandcensuscom-urges-public-broadband-map-with-sparc-scores.

But while BroadbandCensus.com believes that the cause of better broadband data will be served by transparency, we also serve the broadband debate more generally through our news products, and through our Broadband Breakfast Club. As the Commerce Department’s NTIA and Agriculture Department’s RUS unveiling of the broadband stimulus package, we also unveiled the BroadbandCensus.com Weekly Report. It is a subscription-based product that summarizes the essential news about broadband deployment and policy. We’ve also continued to increase the quantity and quality of our free coverage at http://broadbandcensus.com.

In July 2009, to help clarify both the news- and data-oriented missions of the company, BroadbandCensus.com created two subsidiares: Broadband Census News LLC, which will continue to offer the Broadband Breakfast Club, our free daily reporting at BroadbandCensus.com, and the BroadbandCensus.com Weekly Report; and Broadband Census Data LLC.

On our data side, we’ll continue to use “crowdsourcing” to allow internet users to share information about their internet experiences. In addition, we’ve done Census block-level analysis of carrier data in a variety of states, including South Carolina. Our Broadband Census Data LLC subsidiary offers services – including the independent verification of broadband data – to cities, states, carriers and broadband users. In fact, we’ve just finished a comprehensive broadband map of Richland County, South Carolina, which we look forward to demonstrating this map in the coming days.

The Vision and Purpose of One Web Day

BroadbandCensus.com continues to believe that broadband has the ability to unite and enhance lives for the better. But to do so, the power of the Internet must be harnessed to help improve our knowledge about the Internet.

The advantage of the consumer-focused approach to collecting and publishing broadband data is that it allows the consumer information from a broadband census to be incorporated into a publicly available repository of information – into which carrier information may also be added. Such an interactive map generated by publicly-available data would be layered in all of its dimensions: Speed (including broadband technology, like DSL, cable, wireless), Price, Availability, Reliability, Competition (including individual carriers). This is the kind of consumer-friendly broadband map that is necessary for multiple constituencies: for citizens, for broadband and users and for national and local policy-makers.

We wish you a very happy One Web Day, and encourage you to remember to Take the Broadband Census as you prepare for it!

Drew Clark is the Chairman of the Broadband Breakfast Club. He tracks the development of Gigabit Networks, broadband's impact, and the universal service fund @BroadbandCensus. He is also Of Counsel with the firm of Best Best & Krieger LLP. The articles and posts on BroadbandBreakfast.com and affiliated social media, including LinkedIN, are not legal advice or legal services, do not constitute the creation of an attorney-client privilege, and represent the views of their respective authors.

3 Comments

  1. Alas, “One Web Day” is not necessarily worthy of support. Its very name constitutes a false premise: that the Internet and the World Wide Web are the same thing. The group is also very much anti-ISP, which is highly ironic since it is, after all, ISPs who make the Web and the Internet work. The group condemns ISPs — many of whom, like myself, bloody our knuckles every day building out Internet infrastructure — as the enemy, and supports a nationalized Internet (see the blog of One Web Day founder Susan Crawford).

    In short, while the notion of ubiquitous, reasonably priced, high quality Internet is a laudable goal, this group does not deserve support due to the other harmful (and counterproductive) things it advocates.

  2. One Web Day does not condemn ISPs. It condemns ISPs that have tried to close off access to the Internet rather than open it. There is a big difference and knowing the difference is what makes Brett Glass’s comment ironic. If he had his way, the ISPs would be much more profitable and the Internet would be considerably less open.

  3. Mr. Mitchell, you are a liar.

    Our company sacrifices profits to bring Internet to areas which the telephone companies and cable companies find it unprofitable to serve. Every penny is being poured back into the business for this purpose. I personally am not even drawing a salary.

    Your accusations, however, are typical of the falsehoods spread by One Web Day and its founder. One Web Day condemns all ISPs, blindly accusing every one of them of trying to “close off access to the Internet” (which is absurd on its face; we make money by opening up that access!). This is why the group lacks credibility and does not deserve support.

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