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Broadband Maps a Necessary Component of Stimulus Grants, Says Stearns

WASHINGTON, July 17, 2009 – The House Subcommittee on Communications will hold a hearing “in the near future” on making broadband maps a necessary component of awarding Broadband Initiatives Program and Broadband Technological Opportunities Program grants, subcommittee ranking member Rep. Cliff Stearns, R-Fla., said Thursday.

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WASHINGTON, July 17, 2009 – The House Subcommittee on Communications will hold a hearing “in the near future” on making broadband maps a necessary component of awarding Broadband Initiatives Program and Broadband Technological Opportunities Program grants, subcommittee ranking member Rep. Cliff Stearns, R-Fla., said Thursday.

Stearns, the luncheon speaker at an Alcatel-Lucent workshop on rural broadband public-private partnerships, is the top Republican on the House Energy and Commerce panel.

At the event, French telecommunications representatives spoke on their experiences in bringing broadband to rural territories throughout France.

Stearns said he was concerned that the stimulus was rushed, and called for more congressional oversight of the broadband stimulus programs.

The National Telecommunications and Information Administration, the Rural Utilities Services and the Federal Communications Commission are in danger of “throwing money indiscriminately around,” he said.

“Broadband is a transformational infrastructure, and can provide a long-term economic boost to the country,” said Stearns. “But the stimulus package was put together in haste. Many are unsure how some agencies would distribute money.”

To that end, he reiterated the three principles that these grantmaking agencies must follow which he initially called for in past hearings.

First, Stearns said that these agencies must create a comprehensive, nationwide broadband map in order to identify areas that need broadband infrastructure, and to prioritize funding in states that already have a map.

Second, they must focus on getting funding to unserved areas before underserved areas.

Finally, they must allocate funds based on whether the project would remain sustainable after the program ended.

There are already provisions for a nationwide map: the Broadband Data Improvement Act, as included in the Recovery Act, provides for grants to states and non-profit organizations to collaborate in making a national broadband map.

All grant awardees, however, must complete broadband data improvement projects by March 1, 2010, which is after many of the grants made by the NTIA and RUS have been distributed.

Stearns acknowledged that next spring was too soon for a nationwide broadband map to be created.

Therefore, he said he hoped that the hearing would “prevent waste” by enforcing these principles in the grantmaking process.

The recent Notice of Funds Availability outlining the application process for RUS BIP and BTOP grants, did not include specific references to utilizing state or national broadband maps.

On other aspects of that NoFA, Stearns praised the NTIA’s and RUS’s commitment to technological neutrality and reasonable cost per household for broadband deployment.

However, Stearns pointed out that the portions of the NOFA referring to network neutrality, nondiscrimination policies and connectivity were “overly broad.”

As of now, Stearns said, the hearing had not been scheduled yet. “Currently I’m talking to Subcommittee Chairman [Rick] Boucher, [D-Va.]” he said, noting that the subcommittee was currently focused on the Satellite Home Viewer Act and a major privacy bill.

“But the sooner we do this, the better,” said Stearns. “The sooner we have the three principles in place, the better.”

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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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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