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Questions about Broadband Data Swirl at Broadband Policy Summit

June 12 – Questions about the availability and detail of broadband data featured prominently in presentations and in discussions at Thursday’s sessions of Broadband Policy Summit IV.

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WASHINGTON, June 12 – Questions about the availability and detail of broadband data featured prominently in presentations and in discussions at Thursday’s sessions of the Broadband Policy Summit IV, which was sponsored by Pike & Fischer.

“I have been long lamented that we don’t have a national broadband policy,” said Jeff Campbell, senior director of technology and communications policy at Cisco Systems. “If we did have a national broadband plan, we would have to define what exactly is the problem that we are attempting to solve.”

For example, Campbell said during the summit’s first panel – on the regulatory outlook for broadband – more information was needed on the number of households that have Internet connections, the speeds at which they are available, and how many subscribers take up such services.

“We just don’t have the basic building blocks of the data to size the problem” and propose solutions to it, said Campbell. He applauded the work of the California Broadband Task Force, which produced address-level data about both broadband available and promised speeds. The California report did not list broadband data by carrier.

Larry Landis, a commission with the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission on the same panel, agreed. “There is a heightened need for actionable data,” both about where broadband is and where it isn’t. He said that state regulatory officials aim to get more involved in assessing availability, speeds and broadband competition.

Joe Waz, senior vice president of external affairs for Comcast, addressed the cable company’s aggressive efforts to roll out DOCSIS 3.0, a higher-speed version of cable modem served that promises 50 megabits per second (Mbps) download speeds, and 5 Mbps upload speeds, “in front of 20 percent of our homes by the end of this year, and to just about all homes by the end of 2009.”

On the data collection front, Waz praised the work of Connected Nation, which is mapping out information about broadband availability in many states.

James Cicconi, senior executive vice president at AT&T, applauded the Federal Communications Commission’s March 19 data-collection order.

The second panel, on U.S. broadband deployment, also probed further into data-policy issues. Scott Wallsten, vice president for research and senior fellow at the Technology Policy Institute, critically dissected a recent study, by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, showing the U.S. broadband penetration at 15th globally.

The OECD numbers skew U.S. performance because of the country’s relatively large household size, Wallsten said. Further, the OECD results implausibly exclude business use of broadband in its rankings. The bottom line, he said: “relax, we’re fine” on broadband availability and speeds.

Jonathan Banks, senior vice president of law and policy at the trade association US Telecom, said that the technology, media and telecom (TMT) industries had become a significant driver of the U.S. economy. “We see broadband connections being essential to the TMT ecosystem.”

Scott Deutschman, an adviser to FCC Commissioner Michael Copps (who gave an earlier keynote address), also noted the need for better data-gathering, and was cautiously optimistic about the FCC’s March 19 change. “We are headed down the road to colecting better data, that will allow to make better policy-making going forward,” said Deutschman.

Deutschman also called for the FCC to act as a clearinghouse, or a collector of general broadband strategies and ideas.

Mark McElroy, chief operating officer for Connected Nation, touted the importance of public-private partnership in assembling broadband data and creating “e-community leadership teams” to help promote awareness of broadband and encourage subscription.

Daniel Mitchell, vice president of legal affairs for National Telecommunications Cooperative Association, which represents small telecommunications cooperatives, said that Network Neutrality could grow in significance as a political issue if there is not greater competition among broadband providers.

Editor’s Note:

I was able to make a number of contributions to the Broadband Policy Summit. In addition to submitting a written paper about BroadbandCensus.com, I was able to ask a number of questions, and highlight the contribution that our free Web service is playing in the broadband data debate.

As I have said in other forums, knowing where broadband is and isn’t available is the first step toward making sure that broadband truly is accessible to all Americans, but it is only the first step.

Next, consumers and policy-makers must have access to information about broadband competition, speeds and prices. This is best done by publicly linking the data to broadband carriers.

Putting all of this information available, for free, in one readily accessable place is the goal of BroadbandCensus.com. By including the names of carriers, and by allowing consumers to rate their service quality, BroadbandCensus.com will enable Internet users to make true head-to-head comparisons. We believe that these types of comparisons are an essential part of understanding broadband, and of building a national broadband strategy for America.

-Drew Clark, Editor, BroadbandCensus.com

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Broadband Data

Ookla Has Verizon as Fastest Q1 Fixed Provider, T-Mobile Takes Top Spot for Mobile

T-Mobile was also named the most consistent mobile operator and topped 5G download speeds.

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Image of Speedtest from May 2017 by Daniel Aleksandersen used with permission

WASHINGTON, April 18, 2022 – A market report released Friday by performance metrics web service Ookla named Verizon the fastest fixed broadband provider in the U.S. during the first quarter of 2022, and T-Mobile as the fastest mobile operator during the same period.

Verizon had a median download speed of 184.36 Mbps, edging out Comcast Xfinity’s speed of 179.12 Mbps. T-Mobile’s median mobile speed was 117.83 Mbps.

Verizon had the lowest latency of all providers, according to Ookla, well ahead of Xfinity’s fourth place ranking, yet sat at third for consistency behind both Xfinity and Spectrum.

T-Mobile was also the most consistent mobile operator during the first quarter, achieving an Ookla consistency score of 88.3 percent, which along with median download speed represented an increase from the fourth quarter of 2021.

The company also achieved the fastest median 5G download speed, coming in at 191.12 Mbps.

Verizon also notably increased its 5G download speed from its Q4 metric, attributed in part to the turning on of new C-band spectrum in January following deployment delays and protest from airlines. For mobile speeds, it stood in second behind T-Mobile, bumping AT&T to a standing of third. These rankings were the same for mobile measures of latency and consistency.

Yet on 5G availability, AT&T remains ahead of Verizon.

The Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra came in as the fastest popular device in the country, running at 116.33 Mbps.

Ookla is a sponsor of Broadband Breakfast.

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Broadband Data

FCC’s Rosenworcel: Broadband Nutrition Labels Will Create New Generation of Informed Buyers

The FCC hopes companies will make it easier for consumers to choose a broadband plan that fits their needs.

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Photo of Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel speaking at the Mobile World Conference 2022 in Barcelona

WASHINGTON, March 11, 2022 – The Federal Communications Commission’s broadband nutrition labels will usher in a new era where buyers have simple information about what they’re buying, agency Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel said Friday.

Consumers should know what they’re signing up for when they spend hundreds “or even thousands” of dollars per year for internet service. She was speaking at Friday’s commission hearing on its so-called broadband nutrition label initiative.

The hearing comes on top of a public comment period on the initiative. Many providers are pushing for more flexible regulations on compliance.

When consumers choose a broadband provider for their household, Rosenworcel said may people make decisions with “sometimes incomplete and inaccurate information.”

“The problem for broadband consumers isn’t a total lack of information, but there’s loads of fine print,” Rosenworcel said. “It can be difficult to know exactly what we are paying for and these disclosures are not consistent from carrier to carrier,” which makes comparing prices and services harder and more time-consuming for consumers.

The comments built on other recent speeches by Rosenworcel promoting the initiative, encouraging state attorneys general’s ability to enforce companies’ commitments through their states’ consumer protection statutes.

The FCC began a plan in 2015 for broadband labels that was voluntary. The new initiative directed by last year’s bipartisan infrastructure law makes this effort mandatory for broadband providers.

Matt Sayre, managing director of cross sector economic development firm Onward Eugene, said residents in rural Oregon would benefit from simple information when considering broadband providers. During a time where dial-up and satellite-based offerings were primarily available, Sayre said his neighbors “never used terms like latency or packet loss.”

“These are important aspects of good internet service, but not easily understood by most people,” Sayre said. “Citizens understood they needed better service but were uncertain about what tier of service they needed. This is where broadband labels can be very helpful.”

The hearing was the agency’s first on the initiative.

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Broadband Data

Small ISP Organizations Push FCC for Flexibility on Broadband Label Compliance

Advocates say strict compliance requirements may economically harm small providers.

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Photo of outgoing WISPA CEO of Claude Aiken from April 2018 by New America used with permission

WASHINGTON, March 11, 2022 ­­– In comments submitted to the Federal Communications Commission Wednesday, organizations representing small internet providers are pushing for flexible regulations on compliance with a measure that requires clear reporting of broadband service aspects to consumers.

The measure was adopted at a late January meeting by the commission, mandating that providers list their pricing and speed information about services in the format of a “broadband nutrition label” that mimics a food nutrition label. Congress’ bipartisan infrastructure bill enacted in the fall required that the FCC adopt such policy.

The organizations that submitted comments Wednesday say that strict compliance requirements for the new measure may economically harm small providers.

Among those leading the charge are trade associations Wireless Internet Service Providers Association, NTCA – The Rural Broadband Association and America’s Communications Association as well as provider Lumen Technologies.

In comments, limited resources of smaller providers were cited as factors which could disadvantage them in terms of complying with the measure to the FCC’s standards and several organizations asked for small providers to be given extra time to comply.

In separate comments, internet provider Lumen said that the FCC must make multiple changes to its approach if it is to “avoid imposing new obligations that arbitrarily impose excessive costs on providers and undermine other policy goals.”

Last month, FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel said that she looks forward to increased coordination between the FCC and state attorneys general for the enforcement of the measure.

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