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Broadband's Impact

BroadbandCensus.com, One Web Day, and the Quest for Broadband Transparency

WASHINGTON, August 25, 2009 – One year ago, BroadbandCensus.com joined in support of One Web Day. Both for BroadbandCensus.com and for broadband policy and internet technology, a lot has changed in the past year. We launched BroadbandCensus.com in January 2008 with the simple and straightforward goal of making basic broadband information – information about Broadband Speeds, Prices, Availability, Reliability and Competition – public and freely available to users of broadband services. Many wondered why this was necessary. In the lead-up to our “Broadband Census for America Conference,” in September 2008, we were still highlighting the importance of broadband and of solid broadband data in the economy and in society.

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WASHINGTON, August 25, 2009 – One year ago, BroadbandCensus.com joined in support of One Web Day. We are very happy to do so again this year, in 2009.

Both for BroadbandCensus.com and for broadband policy and internet technology, a lot has changed in the past year. We lauched BroadbandCensus.com in January 2008 with the simple and straitforward goal of making basic broadband information — information about Broadband Speeds, Prices, Availability, Reliability and Competition — public and freely available to users of broadband services. Many wondered why this was necessary. In the lead-up to our “Broadband Census for America Conference,” in September 2008, we were still highlighting the importance of broadband and of solid broadband data in the economy and in society.

With the passage of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act in February 2009, much of that focus seems very old. Almost overnight, sometime between mid-November and mid-December 2008, everyone seemed to agree that broadband, and broadband data in particular, was essential. BroadbandCensus.com gain a new lease on life. It was enough just to keep up with the breakneck pace of news, analysis, regulation and broadband stimulus deadlines.

BroadbandCensus.com has been there to guide many through the process. And we have launched a number of new activities that have helped make BroadbandCensus.com one key hub of debate about broadband. In particular, in October 2008 we launched the Broadband Breakfast Club, a monthly on-the-record discussion group. See http://broadbandcensus.com/2009/01/webcasts-of-broadband-breakfast-club-now-available-online/. Although the next meeting is on Tuesday, September 15, the club generally meets on the second Tuesday of each month at Clyde’s of Gallery Place, here in Washington. We’ve had a very impressive lineup at these events, which is now entering new phase with a series, Setting the Table for a National Broadband Plan, that will run from from September 15, 2009, to February 9, 2010.

Looking Backward at One Web Day 2008

In my post last One Web Day, I wrote about the importance of broadband, and about how I ventured into the broadband policy arena from my perch as a daily technology journalist. I also described some of the background for the Take the Broadband Census questionnaire that we have been using to collect information about broadband users’ coverage, speeds, and satisfaction:

The momentum that you have helped to create behind BroadbandCensus.com has put us at the center of the debate about internet data. We are building from this marvelous opportunity as we seek an open and public broadband census. On Monday, September 22, One Web Day will help draw further attention to these efforts. We aim to continue the effort throughout the week until Friday, September 26 and beyond.

Earlier this month we announced Broadband Census for America, a conference that will be held at the American Association for the Advancement of Science, at 1200 New York Avenue NW, Washington, DC, on September 26, [2008,] from 8:30 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. More details about the conference, the program committee and pricing is available here.

“Broadband Census for America” will be sponsored by BroadbandCensus.com, Carnegie Mellon University, the University of Texas at Austin’s Robert S. Strauss Center and Virginia Tech’s eCorridors program. A member of the Embassy of Ireland has confirmed his participation as a keynote speaker. He will inform an American audience of academics, state officials and telecom policy advocates about how the Irish have done their broadband census. Hint: see http://broadband.gov.ie. We urge you to consider attending.

I hope you are wondering what you can do to help this effort. If you are, we’ve got three requests for you on our Get Involved page:

  • Take the Broadband Census and Speed Test
  • Grab a Button for Your Blog
  • Join one of BroadbandCensus.com’s Committees

Also, if you would like to blog about broadband, and about broadband data, on BroadbandCensus.com, please feel free to drop me an e-mail: drew at broadbandcensus.com. We’d be more than happy to include bloggers for BroadbandCensus.com!

We look forward to working with all of your in the run-up to One Web Week, and helping all of us to better understand the true state of broadband competition in our communities, our states, our country and our world.

Evolving Role for BroadbandCensus.com, in News and Data

Now that everyone agrees that solid broadband data truly is essential to crafting a national broadband policy, what do we all do about that?

In the speech that Ben Scott of Free Press has given around Washington about broadband policy, he describes broadband as a “motherhood and apple pie” sort of issue. Everyone loves broadband, everyone wants better broadband, and everyone seeks to boost broadband availability more widely. But the result is a drama without the main actors, or without conflict.

We know that there are conflicts, of course. There are big ones just beneath the surface of the broadband policy debate. None is starker that the divide between the broadband providers and the broadband users.

BroadbandCensus.com has no particular brief for or against carriers. Rather, for us, the key role lurking behind the scenes is the centrality of transparency and openness: We’ve always believed that “A National Broadband Plan Needs a National Broadband Mashup,” and we discussed this in the June 8, 2009, filing that we made at the Federal Communications Commission: http://broadbandcensus.com/2009/06/broadbandcensuscom-urges-public-broadband-map-with-sparc-scores.

But while BroadbandCensus.com believes that the cause of better broadband data will be served by transparency, we also serve the broadband debate more generally through our news products, and through our Broadband Breakfast Club. As the Commerce Department’s NTIA and Agriculture Department’s RUS unveiling of the broadband stimulus package, we also unveiled the BroadbandCensus.com Weekly Report. It is a subscription-based product that summarizes the essential news about broadband deployment and policy. We’ve also continued to increase the quantity and quality of our free coverage at http://broadbandcensus.com.

In July 2009, to help clarify both the news- and data-oriented missions of the company, BroadbandCensus.com created two subsidiares: Broadband Census News LLC, which will continue to offer the Broadband Breakfast Club, our free daily reporting at BroadbandCensus.com, and the BroadbandCensus.com Weekly Report; and Broadband Census Data LLC.

On our data side, we’ll continue to use “crowdsourcing” to allow internet users to share information about their internet experiences. In addition, we’ve done Census block-level analysis of carrier data in a variety of states, including South Carolina. Our Broadband Census Data LLC subsidiary offers services – including the independent verification of broadband data – to cities, states, carriers and broadband users. In fact, we’ve just finished a comprehensive broadband map of Richland County, South Carolina, which we look forward to demonstrating this map in the coming days.

The Vision and Purpose of One Web Day

BroadbandCensus.com continues to believe that broadband has the ability to unite and enhance lives for the better. But to do so, the power of the Internet must be harnessed to help improve our knowledge about the Internet.

The advantage of the consumer-focused approach to collecting and publishing broadband data is that it allows the consumer information from a broadband census to be incorporated into a publicly available repository of information – into which carrier information may also be added. Such an interactive map generated by publicly-available data would be layered in all of its dimensions: Speed (including broadband technology, like DSL, cable, wireless), Price, Availability, Reliability, Competition (including individual carriers). This is the kind of consumer-friendly broadband map that is necessary for multiple constituencies: for citizens, for broadband and users and for national and local policy-makers.

We wish you a very happy One Web Day, and encourage you to remember to Take the Broadband Census as you prepare for it!

Drew Clark is the Editor and Publisher of BroadbandBreakfast.com and a nationally-respected telecommunications attorney at The CommLaw Group. He has closely tracked the trends in and mechanics of digital infrastructure for 20 years, and has helped fiber-based and fixed wireless providers navigate coverage, identify markets, broker infrastructure, and operate in the public right of way. The articles and posts on Broadband Breakfast 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.

Broadband's Impact

USC, CETF Collaborate on Research for Broadband Affordability

Advisory panel includes leaders in broadband and a chief economist at the FCC.

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Hernan Galperin of USC's Annenberg School

WASHINGTON, September 22, 2021 – Researchers from the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School and the California Emerging Technology Fund is partnering to recommend strategies for bringing affordable broadband to all Americans.

In a press release on Tuesday, the university’s school of communications and journalism and the CETF will be guided by an expert advisory panel, “whose members include highly respected leaders in government, academia, foundations and non-profit and consumer-focused organizations.”

Members of the advisory panel include a chief economist at the Federal Communications Commission, digital inclusion experts, broadband advisors to governors, professors and deans, and other public interest organizations.

“With the federal government and states committing billions to broadband in the near term, there is a unique window of opportunity to connect millions of low-income Americans to the infrastructure they need to thrive in the 21st century,” Hernan Galperin, a professor at the school, said in the release.

“However, we need to make sure public funds are used effectively, and that subsidies are distributed in an equitable and sustainable manner,” he added. “This research program will contribute to achieve these goals by providing evidence-based recommendations about the most cost-effective ways to make these historic investments in broadband work for all.”

The CETF and USC have collaborated before on surveys about broadband adoption. In a series of said surveys recently, the organizations found disparities along income levels, as lower-income families reported lower levels of technology adoption, despite improvement over the course of the pandemic.

The surveys also showed that access to connected devices was growing, but racial minorities are still disproportionately impacted by the digital divide.

The collaboration comes before the House is expected to vote on a massive infrastructure package that includes $65 billion for broadband. Observers and experts have noted the package’s vision for flexibility, but some are concerned about the details of how that money will be spent going forward.

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Broadband's Impact

Technology Policy Institute Introduces Data Index to Help Identify Connectivity-Deprived Areas

The Broadband Connectivity Index uses multiple datasets to try to get a better understanding of well- and under-connected areas in the U.S.

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Scott Wallsten is president and senior fellow at the Technology Policy Institute

WASHINGTON, September 16, 2021 – The Technology Policy Institute introduced Thursday a broadband data index that it said could help policymakers study areas across the country with inadequate connectivity.

The TPI said the Broadband Connectivity Index uses multiple broadband datasets to compare overall connectivity “objectively and consistently across any geographic areas.” It said it will be adding it soon into its TPI Broadband Map.

The BCI uses a “machine learning principal components analysis” to take into account the share of households that can access fixed speeds the federal standard of 25 Megabits per second download and 3 Mbps upload and 100/25 – which is calculated based on the Federal Communications Commission’s Form 477 data with the American Community Survey – while also using download speed data from Ookla, Microsoft data for share of households with 25/3, and the share of households with a broadband subscription, which comes from the American Community Survey.

The BCI has a range of zero to 10, where zero is the worst connected and 10 is the best. It found that Falls Church, Virginia was the county with the highest score with the following characteristic: 99 percent of households have access to at least 100/25, 100 percent of households connect to Microsoft services at 25/3, the average fixed download speed is 243 Mbps in Ookla in the second quarter of this year, and 94 percent of households have a fixed internet connection.

Meanwhile, the worst-connected county is Echols County in Georgia. None of the population has access to a fixed connection of 25/3, which doesn’t include satellite connectivity, three percent connect to Microsoft’s servers at 25/3, the average download speed is 7 Mbps, and only 47 percent of households have an internet connection. It notes that service providers won $3.6 million out of the $9.2-billion Rural Digital Opportunity Fund to provide service in this county.

“Policymakers could use this index to identify areas that require a closer look. Perhaps any county below, say, the fifth percentile, for example, would be places to spend effort trying to understand,” the TPI said.

“We don’t claim that this index is the perfect indicator of connectivity, or even the best one we can create,” TPI added. “In some cases, it might magnify errors, particularly if multiple datasets include errors in the same area.

“We’re still fine-tuning it to reduce error to the extent possible and ensure the index truly captures useful information. Still, this preliminary exercise shows that it is possible to obtain new information on connectivity with existing datasets rather than relying only on future, extremely expensive data.”

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Broadband's Impact

New Report Recommends Broadening Universal Service Fund to Include Broadband Revenues

A Mattey Consulting report finds broadband revenues can help sustain the fund used to connect rural and low-income Americans.

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Carol Mattey of Mattey Consulting LLC

WASHINGTON, September 14, 2021— Former deputy chief of the Federal Communications Commission Carol Mattey released a study on Tuesday recommending the agency reform the Universal Service Fund to incorporate a broad range of revenue sources, including from broadband.

According to the report by Mattey’s consulting firm Mattey Consulting LLC, revenues from “broadband internet access services that are increasingly used by Americans today should contribute to the USF programs that support the expansion of such services to all,” it said. “This will better reflect the value of broadband internet access service in today’s marketplace for both consumers and businesses.”

Mattey notes that sources of funding for the USF, which are primarily from voice revenues and supports expanding broadband to low-income Americans and remote regions, has been shrinking, thus putting the fund in jeopardy. The contribution percent reached a historic high at 33.4 percent in the second quarter this year, and decreased slightly after that, though Mattey suggested it could soar as high as 40 percent in the coming years.

“This situation is unsustainable and jeopardizes the universal broadband connectivity mission for our nation without immediate FCC reform,” Mattey states in her report, “To ensure the enduring value of the USF program and America’s connectivity goals, we must have a smart and substantive conversation about the program’s future.”

According to Mattey’s data, the assessed sources (primarily voice) of income will only continue to shrink over the coming years, while unassessed sources will continue to grow. Mattey’s report was conducted in conjunction with INCOMPAS, NTCA: The Rural Broadband Association, and the Schools, Health and Libraries Broadband Coalition.

“It is time for the FCC to take action, and to move away from the worst option of all – the status quo – that is jeopardizing the USF which is critical to connecting our nation,” the report said.

John Windhausen, executive director of SHLB, echoed the sentiments expressed by Mattey in her report, “We simply must put the USF funding mechanism on a more stable and sustainable path,” he said, “[in order to] strengthen our national commitment to broadband equity for all.”

Mattey report uniform with current recommendations

Mattey’s research is generally in line with proponents of change to the USF. Some have recommended that the fund draw from general broadband revenues, while others have said general taxation would provide a longer lasting solution. Even FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr suggested that Big Tech be forced to contribute to the system it benefits from, which the acting chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel said is an “intriguing” idea.

The FCC instituted the USF in 1997 as a part of the Telecommunications Act of 1996. The fund was designed to encourage the development of telecom infrastructure across the U.S.—dispensing billions of dollars every year to advance the goal of universal connectivity. It does so through four programs: the Connect America Fund, Lifeline, the rural health care program, and E-Rate.

These constituent programs address specific areas related for broadband. For example, the E-Rate program is primarily concerned with ensuring that schools and libraries are sufficiently equipped with internet and technology assistance to serve their students and communities. All of these programs derive their funding from the USF.

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