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Metrics Working Group of the U.S. Broadband Coalition Offers 'Policy Options'

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WASHINGTON, September 28, 2009 – The U.S. Broadband Coalition, an assemblage of more than 160 organizations pressing for a comprehensive national broadband strategy, on Thursday released its final report at the Federal Communications Commission.

Drew Clark, Editor of Broadband Census News LLC and Executive Director of Broadband Census Data LLC, was co-Chair of the coalition’s Metrics Working Group, together with Rob Atkinson, President of the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation. Below are excerpts from the final “policy options” crafted by the working group and included in the final report:

1. Increase funding for the Census Bureau to collect better data on broadband use

Under this option, the Census Bureau would add questions on broadband to the monthly Current Population Survey at least once a year. These questions would include whether the respondent subscribes to broadband and, if so, what they do with it. This would allow a host of data, including income, race, neighborhood, education levels, computer ownership, age, disability and other factors to be collected and analyzed. Second, the Census Bureau would significantly expand its E-stats efforts, which are currently limited to collecting data on e-commerce sales and some data on e-commerce use by manufacturing….

2. Implement the Broadband Data Improvement Act (BDIA)

Early on, the Metrics Group discussed implementation of the BDIA as an option to improve data collection and dissemination…. The NTIA will have to ensure that all states meet at least the statutory requirements of the BDIA.

3. Further Improvements and Refinements to the FCC’s Form 477 Process

As indicated above, the FCC has already revised its Form 477 process to collect and disseminate more granular broadband data. Some members of the Metrics Group believe that the agency should now move towards even greater granularity, by collecting data at the census block level. Other members believe that such a step is premature, as the FCC has yet to analyze and publish the new data they have obtained. …

The Metrics Group also discussed the possibility of the FCC funding the development of appropriate software tools to help aid providers in complying with the FCC’s Form 477 process. For example, an Application Programming Interface could help offset some of the cost and burden of more detailed mapping….

4. Support for an integrated, user-generated data system

As mapping becomes more advanced, input from users could become a key part of mapping. Some members of the Metrics Working Group support establishing a system that allows for consumer reviews and speed tests that measure actual upstream and downstream speeds would allow the FCC, and others, to make better informed decisions about the state of broadband in an area. Moving beyond the binary decision of “yes, they have broadband,” or “no, broadband is not available,” these members say that policymakers must be able to parse out the problems in a particular area….

5. Create an Office of Broadband Statistics that would be responsible for creating a National Broadband Data Warehouse, based on common standards and interoperable formats

Some members of the Metrics Group recommend that the NTIA create a Bureau of Broadband Statistics under the office of Policy Development and Management. Under this proposal, the Bureau would be in charge of overall national broadband data collection, analysis, and reporting and to ensure the most cost-effective use of broadband data resources. The Bureau would bring a greater degree of coordination, comparability, and quality standards to broadband data, and facilitates in the closing of important data gaps. Among other duties it would be in charge of establishing the broadband data warehouse where all data can be uploaded into a common database for use by anyone interesting in analyzing it. This data would be able to be presented graphically, including in geographic mapping format.…

6. The NTIA and RUS should require that as a condition of getting federal funds for data collection that the data be collected in an interoperable form and uploaded on a regular basis to a common data warehouse.

In addition, some members of the Metrics Working Group believe that the FCC should ensure that Form 477 data are integrated to the data warehouse, providing a useful cross-check on the data to be provided via the NTIA mapping program….

Drew Clark is the Editor and Publisher of and President of the Rural Telecommunications Congress. His telecommunications-focused law firm, Drew Clark PLLC, works with cities, rural communities and state economic development entities to promote the benefits of internet connectivity. The articles and posts on and affiliated social media, including the BroadbandCensus Twitter feed 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.

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