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Senate Committee Seeks Faster Internet and More Broadband Data

WASHINGTON, September 16 – Senators on the Commerce Committee on Tuesday promoted the benefits of high-speed internet access and called for the passage of measures designed to provide more public information about broadband, and more broadband connectivity.

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WASHINGTON, September 16 – Senators on the Commerce Committee on Tuesday promoted the benefits of high-speed internet access and called for the passage of measures designed to provide more public information about broadband, and more broadband connectivity.

At a hearing on “Why Broadband Matters,” the committee heard testimony – remotely – from an Alaska telehealth facility, among others.

Chairman Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, pressed for passage of his Broadband Data Improvement Act, S. 1492, and Sen. Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, announced his Telehealth for America bill designed to expand current programs supporting broadband-enabled telehealth applications.

Consumer representatives praised the benefits of broadband connectivity and advocated more be done in the U.S. to improve broadband speeds, penetration rates, and data on availability.

The hearing focused on how consumers can utilize broadband for applications including telemedicine, distance education, and long-distance family and community communications.

The testimony of Gene Peltola, on the impact of telemedicine in a remote Alaska village, relied upon internet-based videoconferencing. Peltola is CEO of Yukon-Kuskokwim Health Corporation in Bethel, Alaska. “With gas at $8 a gallon,” Peltola told the committee, “anything but the most vital of services becomes cost-prohibitive to deliver [in rural Alaska].” To overcome these costs, towns and tribes in Alaska have partnered with broadband providers to deliver sufficient broadband speeds and connectivity to support a variety of telehealth services, including radiological exams with doctors in Dayton, Ohio.

The Universal Service rural healthcare program that supports such initiatives “has saved countless lives in Alaska,” he said.

Other witnesses provided anecdotal accounts of the benefits of broadband – but were quick to criticize current levels of internet service for many Americans. Jonathan Linkous, executive director of the American Telemedicine Association, said that “telemedicine 3.0 is where we are for some Americans, but not for all.”

Sen. Stevens expressed similar concerns. “It’s clear that smaller rural health care providers need to be connected to the Internet, too.” The Alaska senator’s Telehealth for America 2008 bill is designed to expand the universal service fund’s Rural Health Care Program to smaller towns and additional medical professionals.

Larry Cohen, president of the Communication Workers of America, said he was concerned with the current state of broadband in the U.S. He produced data from his organization’s initiative, Speed Matters, which found that average U.S. broadband speeds were far below those of leading industrial nations like Japan, South Korea, Finland, and Canada.

Questioning the witnesses, senators expressed a desire for more and better data on current connectivity levels and the costs of improvement.

Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., asked Cohen what nations like Canada are doing differently in order to achieve higher speeds than the U.S. and the union representative responded that Canada has mapped broadband and the U.S. should do the same because “we need to know where we stand.”

Improving broadband data collection and mapping through S. 1492 was often mentioned as a key step in improving connectivity in the U.S. Last year the House has passed similar legislation, the Broadband Census of America Act, or H.R. 3919.

Other recommendations included reforms to the universal service fund to make it more robust and to direct needed funds to rural broadband services, to develop higher standards for the definition of broadband in the US in order to improve speeds, and for the development of a national broadband policy to coordinate and further fund current efforts to enhance and expand services.

Inouye summed up many of these recommendations in his closing remarks. He advocated a national policy that would focus on broadband and expressed his concerns that there was insufficient data available on broadband. “We’re hungry for data, we’re hungry for facts,” said Inouye.

In a press release following the hearing, Inouye called for the immediate passage of S. 1492, saying that “this is not about regulation or deregulation. This is about getting the facts, because from good information flows good policy.”

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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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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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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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