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Frequently-Asked Questions (FAQ) about BroadbandCensus.com

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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:

Broadband Mapping & Data

Kirsten Compitello: The Need for a Digital Equity Focus on Broadband Mapping

Incorporating equitable processes and outcomes from the start is crucial to avoid perpetuating continued inequalities.

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The author of this Expert Opinion is Kirsten Compitello, National Broadband Digital Equity Director at Michael Baker International

Broadband for all is in the spotlight right now, and closing the digital divide is recognized as a national priority. The divide goes far beyond access and touches issues of costs, ownership, culture, awareness, skills, and more. As we enter into a period of major statewide planning and deployment efforts, incorporating equitable processes and outcomes from the start is crucial to avoid perpetuating continued inequalities in access, adoption, and literacy.

Digital equity is not just a value statement: it’s a commitment to inclusive and equitable decision making at every stage of broadband deployment, from planning to service delivery.

Ensuring equitable representation at the table

Embedding digital equity analysis into mapping is especially critical at this moment in time as we prepare for historic broadband funding. This funding is an opportunity to rebalance systemic patterns of exclusion and ensure rapidly deployed planning and implementation funds are fairly dispersed.

The Digital Equity Act provides $2.75 billion to establish three grant programs that promote digital equity and inclusion, including the State Digital Equity Planning Grant Program, a $60 million grant program for states and territories to develop digital equity plans. In creating these Statewide Digital Equity Plans, extensive outreach to and collaboration with underserved, unserved and historically marginalized populations will prove critical. These discussions will be much more informative and effective in guiding successful policies, programs and projects if they are rooted in clear understanding of social, economic and environmental patterns alongside broadband access maps.

Documenting the effects of digital exclusion

Access is not an equal term: reducing it simply to speed of service available neglects the social and economic complexities that determine how and where users are affected by a lack of broadband. In short, mapping where the infrastructure exists only tells part of the story. Data analysis needs to layer in demographic and economic information in order to reveal patterns of exclusion and identify root causes.

To better understand community impacts, our team at Michael Baker developed data visualization tools such as a Digital Equity Atlas which takes the next step toward analyzing how broadband gaps disproportionately impact segments of the population. The methodology looks at Title VI and Environmental Justice data to reveal where poor connectivity correlates to social factors including low income, senior populations, English as a Second Language, households without a vehicle and more. As an example, the Southwestern Pennsylvania Commission leveraged the Digital Equity Atlas to prioritize new broadband expansion projects that stand to benefit the greatest number of at-risk or marginalized households. These households should not be last in line to see broadband investment finally bringing greater connectivity and opportunities to their doorsteps.

Fulfilling Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment program requirements

Federal reporting requirements for upcoming Investment in Infrastructure and Jobs Act funding call for a proven and documented understanding and analysis of digital equity needs, from planning to projects in the ground.

The IIJA’s Broadband Equity, Access and Deployment Program provides $42.45 billion to expand broadband access by funding planning, infrastructure deployment and adoption programs across the country. Statewide Five-Year Action Plans, funded through this program, will require government agencies and their partners to take an integrated digital equity approach.

From planning through the ensuing reporting requirements, establishing digital equity strategies and a clear rubric for measuring success in achieving digital equity goals is a must for agencies. These entities must demonstrate how projects funded through BEAD improve digital equity. A strong data-driven baseline – such as the Digital Equity Atlas – will be a necessary starting point for agencies to track and monitor the effect of each new deployment on surrounding households. These data-driven metrics will also be a win for state and local governments to tell the story of their successes with clear data to back it up.

Setting a goal for sustainable inclusivity

As the consumption of internet content continues to rise and as broadband for all projects bring connectivity to the unserved, baseline expectations for broadband service and speed will only continue to grow. If we aren’t careful, new categories of have-nots will emerge: for example, those who pay high fees for minimum speeds versus those with lower fees for premier plans and Gig speeds. The currently unserved will gain access to service, but many will continue to struggle with basic internet skills, navigating through complex terms of service, or even simply finding time to schedule installation without missing a day of work.

To create a truly equitable society, everyone – no matter age, ability, location or status – needs access to affordable and reliable broadband; internet-connected devices; education on digital technology and best use practices; tech support and online resources that help users participate, collaborate and work independently.

By grounding our planning in equitable practices from the very first step, we can help to ensure that everyone is able to benefit from Internet for All.

Kirsten Compitello, AICP, is the National Broadband Digital Equity Director at Michael Baker International. This piece is exclusive to Broadband Breakfast.

Broadband Breakfast accepts commentary from informed observers of the broadband scene. Please send pieces to commentary@breakfast.media. The views expressed in Expert Opinion pieces do not necessarily reflect the views of Broadband Breakfast and Breakfast Media LLC.

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Broadband Mapping & Data

62% of Americans Have Access to High-Speed 5G, Says New BroadbandNow Map

The company says its map is based on millions of M-Lab speed tests conducted over a six-month period.

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Photo of John Busby, the managing director of BroadbandNow

September 23, 2022 – Roughly 62 percent of Americans can receive access to high-speed 5G wireless coverage at home, according to a newly released map from the research and aggregator BroadbandNow.

Released on September 12, the map of the nation’s high-speed 5G coverage shows that 206.4 million Americans are able to receive such wireless coverage at 100 Megabits per second (Mbps) or more on download speeds.

The map – based upon actual speed results –shows performance data by provider in all ZIP codes in which high-speed 5G is available. BroadbandNow simplifies the geography to include the entire ZIP code in which a speed result is found. The map’s data includes average speed, top speed, packet loss, and speed-test sample size.

The company says its map is based on millions of M-Lab speed tests conducted over a six-month period.

The map shows dense areas of high-speed 5G coverage in much of the South, the Great Lakes region, the southern Great-Plains states, and the West Coast. High-speed coverage is sparser in the Dakotas, the Rocky Mountain region, the Southwest, and a few outlier states such as Maine and West Virginia.

Advertised speeds vs. experienced speeds

BroadbandNow’s website notes the 5G map’s speed-tested data differs from other BroadbandNow data that is based on providers responses to the Federal Communications Commission’s Form 477, which shows the speeds providers claim to offer.

Indeed, the commonly occurring differences between providers’ advertised broadband speeds and users’ experienced broadband speeds frequently are currently a hot topic among experts in the telecommunications space.

“We’re trying to ask a different question, which is what’s available in an area as opposed to what people are actually subscribing to,” said Bryan Darr, vice president of smart communities for Ookla, at a Broadband Breakfast Live Online event Wednesday.

Ookla’s speed-test data shows suggests many areas that should have high-speed coverage – based on providers’ Form 477 reporting – do not, said Darr. In Colorado, for instance, Ookla data showed that speeds of less than 25 Mbps were consistently reported in certain areas in which CenturyLink claimed to offer fiber coverage.

“Clearly there’s questions to be asked here,” said Darr. “Why is no one here seeing an increase in speed?”

BroadbandNow is a sponsor of Broadband Breakfast.

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Broadband Mapping & Data

Panelists at Broadband Breakfast Event Urge the FCC Mapping Fabric Be Made Public

They objected to being required to help build CostQuest’s database, but are unable to utilize database for their own benefit.

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Screenshot of Dustin Loup, project manager of the Marconi Society’s National Broadband Mapping Coalition.

WASHINGTON, September 22, 2022 – The Federal Communications Commission’s policy to withhold broadband mapping data from the general public is unjustifiable, panelists said during a panel at a Broadband Breakfast Live Online event Wednesday.

Screenshot of Dustin Loup, project manager of the Marconi Society’s National Broadband Mapping Coalition.

The FCC’s “fabric,” constructed by partner CostQuest Associates, is a dataset that identifies all locations nationwide and in U.S. territories at which “fixed broadband internet access service has been or could be installed.”

It is planned to be the basis for the FCC’s new broadband map and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration’s allocation of $42.45 billion in Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment program funding to the states.

The FCC will accept challenges to the fabric’s accuracy on a rolling basis, the agency has said, adding that corrections will be made to it. And while a preliminary version of the fabric was released to state, local, and tribal governments, providers, and other entities earlier this year, it remains unavailable to the general public.

Don’t miss the Broadband Mapping Masterclass! You can navigate the treacherous waters around broadband mapping by participating in this 2-hour Masterclass for only $99. Enroll TODAY in this LIVE Masterclass on Tuesday, September 27, at 12 Noon ET

“It’s hard to think of a legitimate reason for excluding third parties from the fabric at this point,” said Scott Wallsten, president of the Technology Policy Institute. The institute is one such third party that would like access to the fabric, Wallsten said.

And while certain aggregations might be necessary to protect ISPs’ and other entities’ proprietary data, Wallsten argued that access to the fabric’s information could greatly benefit a range of industry entities. Wallsten said the creation of an accurate location-by-location map necessitates the juxtaposition and integration of many different datasets, “require[ing] lots and lots of transparency.”

The FCC imposed limitations on how the fabric can be used, even by those granted access, said Dustin Loup, project manager of the Marconi Society’s National Broadband Mapping Coalition.

“The licenses that are used to gain access to the fabric essentially say that you can use the fabric for reporting into the broadband data collection program or challenging the accuracy of the fabric. Withholding the fabric from the general public precludes non-approved entities from verifying the accuracy of the fabric’s data,” he added.

Licensing agreement between CostQuest and FCC impacts public

While CostQuest owns the initial fabric data, data generated from the challenge process is the FCC’s. Pursuant to the contractual agreement between the two, however, the challenge data is leased to CostQuest and may be used in the company’s commercial products.

The U.S. Court of Federal Claims on September 14 released an opinion dismissing a challenge to the FCC’s contract with CostQuest.

Loup objected to communities being “required to help build CostQuest’s database” but being unable to utilize that database for their own benefit. He attributed that result to the FCC’s strict usage restrictions unless the third party were to purchase CostQuest’s commercial mapping products.

Wallsten also questioned why the FCC’s has control over broadband mapping in the first place. He said other federal agencies, including a suggestion that the United States Geological Survey step in, have relevant expertise and are more disinterested in broadband-policy fights than is the FCC.

Our Broadband Breakfast Live Online events take place on Wednesday at 12 Noon ET. Watch the event on Broadband Breakfast, or REGISTER HERE to join the conversation.

Wednesday, September 21, 2022, 12 Noon ET – Broadband Mapping and Data

Much hinges on the success or failure of the Federal Communications Commissions’ updated broadband maps. This fall the agency is entering into a period of intensive updating in which it is assessing an address-level “fabric” of locations and comparing internet service data received from providers. Now comes the hard part: Providing a framework for broadband users and providers to understand and challenge the FCC’s map. The future of the Biden administration’s Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act depends upon it.

Panelists:

  • Scott Wallsten, President, Technology Policy Institute
  • Bryan Darr, Vice President of Smart Communities at Ookla
  • Dustin Loup, Program Manager, Marconi Society’s National Broadband Mapping Coalition
  • Drew Clark (moderator), Editor and Publisher, Broadband Breakfast

Panelist resources:

Don’t miss the Broadband Mapping Masterclass! You can navigate the treacherous waters around broadband mapping by participating in this 2-hour Masterclass for only $99. Enroll TODAY in this LIVE Masterclass on Tuesday, September 27, at 12 Noon ET

Bryan Darr is the Vice President of Smart Communities at Ookla. He coordinates Ookla’s outreach to local, state and federal governments and serves on CTIA’s Smart Cities Business & Technology Working Group.

Scott Wallsten is President and Senior Fellow at the Technology Policy Institute and also a senior fellow at the Georgetown Center for Business and Public Policy. He is an economist with expertise in industrial organization and public policy, and his research focuses on competition, regulation, telecommunications, the economics of digitization, and technology policy. He holds a Ph.D. in economics from Stanford University.

Dustin Loup is an expert on internet governance and policy and program manager for the Marconi Society’s National Broadband Mapping Coalition. Much of his work centers on improving digital inclusion and establishing transparent, open-source, and openly verifiable mapping methodologies and standards.

White House photo from August 2021 by Adam Schultz

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As with all Broadband Breakfast Live Online events, the FREE webcasts will take place at 12 Noon ET on Wednesday.

SUBSCRIBE to the Broadband Breakfast YouTube channel. That way, you will be notified when events go live. Watch on YouTubeTwitter and Facebook

See a complete list of upcoming and past Broadband Breakfast Live Online events.

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