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‘Broadband Census for America’ United Scholars and State Officials

WASHINGTON – September 29, 2009 – From the beginning, BroadbandCensus.com has aimed at providing academics, consumers, government officials and industry with the high-quality data needed about the state of broadband throughout the country.

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WASHINGTON – September 29, 2009 – From the beginning, BroadbandCensus.com has aimed at providing academics, consumers, government officials and industry with the high-quality data needed about the state of broadband throughout the country.

We believe in public and transparent broadband data. Without public and transparent broadband data, each of these constituents are lacking in what they need.

It is heartening that the highest levels of the Obama administration see and espouse the virtues of transparency and of a data-driven approach to broadband policy. Again today, it came clear that the FCC now seeks to do that which BroadbandCensus.com has been doing since February 2008 – comparing actual speeds with advertised speeds – on an even more finely grained basis.

Now comes the hard part: translating the rhetoric and positive feelings about public and open broadband data into concrete decisions that will drive better-quality broadband data.

Last week I began this five-part series during One Web Week. I focused on the Freedom of Information Act lawsuit to obtain broadband data in 2006, and on the founding of BroadbandCensus.com in the fall of 2007.

Much has happened on broadband data in the past week: FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski announced a new Network Neutrality principle embodying “transparency” in broadband data. The U.S. Broadband Coalition released its report calling for a National  Broadband Data Warehouse. Over the weekend, at the Telecommunications Policy Research Conference, one key topics of discussion was the centrality of public and transparent broadband data

Today, I’d like to highlight BroadbandCensus.com’s role in helping the build the emerging consensus behind broadband data disclosure. I’ll speak particularly about our major conference, “Broadband Census for America,” one year ago, on September 26, 2008. I’ll also speak about the work we’ve done on covering broadband policy and deployment through our reporting, and in the comments that we’ve filed at the FCC in support of public and transparent broadband data.

‘Broadband Census for America’ Conference

BroadbandCensus.com  began with some modest seed funding from the Pew Internet and American Life Project, and from the Benton Foundation. We’ve also been blessed by wonderful collaborators of technical and outreach matters: Virginia Tech’s eCorridors Program, Internet2, the Network Policy Council of EDUCAUSE, the National Association of Telecommunications Officers and Advisors, and others.

Many of these organizations believe, with us, that disclosure – including disclosure of carriers offering broadband service within a particular geography – is necessary in order to understand the true state of broadband availability throughout the country.

On August 7, 2008, BroadbandCensus.com and our academic partners, including Carnegie Mellon University, the University of Texas at Austin and Virginia Tech’s eCorridors Program, announced our conference, “Broadband Census for America.” We sought to assemble state, local and federal officials engaged in gathering and mapping information about broadband speeds, prices, availability, reliability and competition. Academic researchers lent their perspective on the importance of universal broadband data. Among the noteworthy individuals to attend that gathering included James Baller, of the Baller Herbst Law Group, who went on to lead the U.S. Broadband Coalition. Susan Crawford, then a University of Michigan Law Professor and now a White house official on science and technology policy.

The keynotes for the event included Commissioner Rachelle Chong, of the California Public Utilities Commission, and Eamonn Confrey, first secretary of Information and Communications Policy of the Embassy of Ireland. Confrey spoke about the Irish experience in public broadband mapping. The full agenda for the program is available at http://broadbandcensus.com/conference. By friend and colleague Drew Bennett, who served as a special correspondent and special assistant at BroadbandCensus.com during the last half of 2008, was instrumental to making the conference a success.

The program included a panel on “Does America Need a Broadband Census”, with a wide diversity of speakers, including Art Brodsky of Public Knowledge, Debbie Goldman of the Communications Workers of America, Mark McElroy, chief operating officer of Connected Nation, and myself. The second panel, on “How Should America Conduct a Broadband Census,” including Jeffrey Campbell of Cisco Systems, William Lehr of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Jane Smith Patterson of the North Carolina e-NC Authority, and others.

The program committee for the event included Professors Kenneth Flamm of University of Texas, John Peha of CMU (and current chief technologist at the FCC), Sascha Meinrath of the New America Foundation,Scott Wallsten of the Technology Policy Institute, and others. Full details are available at http://broadbandcensus.com/conference

Reporting on Broadband Policy in Washington and the States

In addition to our Broadband Census for America Conference, BroadbandCensus.com launched its reporting – in Washington and in the states, beginning in May 2008. We’ve subsequently posted more than 450 news stories, blog entries, press releases and commentary on broadband.

Today, on the news side of our operations, most of our coverage focuses on the broadband stimulus, the national broadband plan, and wireless broadband. We’ve also had a special eye toward the battles over broadband data, and the state struggles over the deployment of broadband data. That’s what we began in the summer of 2008: a series of state-by-state articles profiling the broadband policies, broadband build-out and broadband data in each of the United States and its territories. The complete list is available at http://broadbandcensus.com/broadband-census-in-the-states.

As we have strengthened our knowledge of and ties to individual states, we began to tap into a whole new sources of broadband information for our data operations. For example, because of the greater detail available from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, we’ve been able to identify each of the carriers offering service at the ZIP-code level in that state.

Broadband Census.com has also weighed into the deliberations of the FCC on the issue of obtaining better broadband data. Both in July 2008, at http://broadbandcensus.com/2008/07/comments-of-broadbandcensuscom-in-fcc-rulemaking-on-broadband-data/, and in June 2009, when we urged a “Public Broadband Map with SPARC Scores” – for the Speeds, Prices, Availability, Reliability and Competition of broadband connectivity, at http://broadbandcensus.com/2009/06/broadbandcensuscom-urges-public-broadband-map-with-sparc-scores/. In the latter filing, BroadbandCensus.com reiterated its view that the public should have access to basic broadband SPARC information. It also highlighting the existence of tangible ways in which the federal government could, even in the absence of cooperation from the broadband carriers, could still obtain the all-important Census-block-by Census block data.

The Series:

  • Part 1: The debate begins with the Freedom of Information Act lawsuit in 2006.
  • Part 2, on One Web Day: The founding of BroadbandCensus.com in the fall of 2007.
  • Part 3: The Broadband Census for America Conference in September 2008, and our work with the academic community to foster public and transparent broadband data-collection efforts.
  • Part 4: BroadbandCensus.com’s involvement with the National Broadband Plan in 2009.
  • The Final Part: The role BroadbandCensus.com and broadband users have to play in the creation of a robust and reliable National Broadband Data Warehouse.

About BroadbandCensus.com

BroadbandCensus.com was launched in January 2008, and uses “crowdsourcing” to collect the Broadband SPARC: Speeds, Prices, Availability, Reliability and Competition. The news on BroadbandCensus.com is produced by Broadband Census News LLC, a subsidiary of Broadband Census LLC that was created in July 2009.

A recent split of operations helps to clarify the mission of BroadbandCensus.com. Broadband Census Data LLC offers commercial broadband verification services to cities, states, carriers and broadband users. Created in July 2009, Broadband Census Data LLC produced a joint application in the NTIA’s Broadband Technology Opportunities Program with Virginia Tech’s eCorridors Program. In August 2009, BroadbandCensus.com released a beta map of Columbia, South Carolina, in partnership with Benedict-Allen Community Development Corporation.

Broadband Census News LLC offers daily and weekly reporting, as well as the Broadband Breakfast Club. The Broadband Breakfast Club has been inviting top experts and policy-makers to share breakfast and perspectives on broadband technology and internet policy since October 2008. Both Broadband Census News LLC and Broadband Census Data LLC are subsidiaries of Broadband Census LLC, and are organized in the Commonwealth of Virginia. About BroadbandCensus.com.

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 Data

TPRC Conference to Discuss Definition of Section 230, Broadband, Spectrum and China

Broadband Breakfast briefly breaks down the topics to be discussed at the TPRC conference.

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Photo collage of experts from TPRC

WASHINGTON, September 17, 2021 – The TPRC research conference on communication, information, and internet policy is right around the corner and it is set to address some of the most pressing issues facing Big Tech, the telecom industry, and society at large. We cover some topics you can expect to see covered during the conference on September 22 to 24.

If the recent election cycle and the Covid-19 pandemic have taught us anything, it is that the threat of misinformation and disinformation pose a greater threat than most people could have imagined. Many social media platforms have attempted to provide their own unique content moderation solutions to combat such efforts, but thus far, none of these attempts have satisfied consumers or legislators.

While the left criticizes these companies for not going far enough to curtail harmful speech, the right argues the opposite— that social media has gone too far and censored conservative voices.

All this dissent has landed Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act of 1996—once a staple in the digital landscape—in the crosshairs of both Democrats and Republicans, as companies still scramble to strike a compromise to placate both sides of the aisle.

Definition of broadband

The future of broadband classifications is another topic that will also be touched on during the conference. This topic quickly became relevant at the outset of the pandemic, as people around the country began to attend school and work virtually.

It became immediately clear that for many Americans, our infrastructure was simply insufficient to handle such stresses. Suddenly, legislators were rushing to reclassify broadband. Efforts in Washington, championed primarily by Democrats, called for broadband standards to be raised.

The Federal Communications Commission’s standing definition of 25 Megabits per second (Mbps) download and 3 Mbps upload appeared to become unpopular overnight, as calls for symmetrical service, like 100 x 100 Mbps speeds, and even gigabit speeds became a part of the conversation.

Many experts were quick to strike back, particularly those operating in the wireless community, arguing that the average consumer does not need 100 Mbps symmetrical speeds, let alone one gigabit, and such efforts only amounted to fearmongering that would hurt the deployment of broadband infrastructure to unserved communities.

These experts contend that shifting the standards would diminish the utility and viability of any technology other than fiber, as well as delaying when unserved communities (as they are currently defined) can expect to be served. Broader topics surrounding rural broadband and tech-equity will also be prominently featured—addressing many of the questions raised by Covid-19 across the last year and a half.

Future of spectrum

Finally, the quest for spectrum will be discussed at the conference.

As ubiquitous 5G technology continues to be promised by many companies in the near future, the hunt is on to secure more bandwidth to allow their devices and services to function. Of course, spectrum is a finite resource, so finding room is not always easy.

Indeed, spectrum sharing efforts have been underway for years, where incumbent users either incentivized or are compelled to make room for others in their band—just like we saw the military in the Citizens Broadband Radio Service band, and more recently between the Department of Defense and Ligado in the L band.

Even though these efforts are ongoing, there is still disagreement in the community about how, if at all, sharing spectrum will impact users in the band. While some argue that spectrum can be shared with little, if any, interference to incumbent services, others firmly reject this stance, maintaining that sharing bandwidth would be catastrophic to the services they provide.

On China

China is also going to be a significant topic at the conference. Due to the competitive nature of the U.S.-China relationship, many regard the race to 5G as a zero-sum game, whereby China’s success is our failure.

Furthermore, security and competition concerns have led the U.S. government to institute a “rip and replace” policy across the country, through which Chinese components—particularly those from companies such as Huawei—are torn out of existing infrastructure and substituted with components from the U.S. or countries we have closer economic ties with. The conference will feature several sessions discussing these topics and more.

Register for TPRC 2021

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Broadband Breakfast on Wednesday, September 15, 2021 — A ‘Consumer Confidence’ Survey for Broadband

BroadbandNow launches a “consumer confidence” survey.

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Our Broadband Breakfast Live Online events take place every Wednesday at 12 Noon ET. You can watch the September 15, 2021, event on this page. You can also PARTICIPATE in the current Broadband Breakfast Live Online event. REGISTER HERE.

Wednesday, September 15, 2021, 12 Noon ET — BroadbandNow Presents a ‘Consumer Confidence’ Survey for Broadband

As part of its efforts to provide the latest research on the social, economic and political issues contributing to the digital impact and the impact of broadband on everyday life, BroadbandNow is launching a new survey among broadband leaders enthusiasts. Think of this as a “consumer confidence” survey for broadband.

Recently, there have been many changes regarding broadband at the federal, state, local and industry levels. BroadbandNow and Broadband Breakfast aim to launch the survey at a presentation during Digital Infrastructure Investment 2021, a mini-conference at the Broadband Community Summit in Houston, Texas, from September 27-30, 2021.

Join us on September 15, 2021, for this special Broadband Breakfast Live Online preview of the survey with John Busby, Managing Director of BroadbandNow, and Drew Clark, Editor and Publisher of Broadband Breakfast.

Panelists for the event:

  • John Busby, Managing Director of BroadbandNow
  • John B. Horrigan, Senior Fellow, Benton Institute on Broadband & Society
  • Drew Clark (moderator), Editor and Publisher of Broadband Breakfast

Panelist resources:

  • John Busby is the Managing Director of BroadbandNow.com, where millions of consumers find and compare local internet options and independent research is published about the digital divide. Prior to BroadbandNow, John held senior leadership positions at Amazon and Marchex. John holds a Bachelor’s Degree from Northwestern University.
  • John B. Horrigan, Ph.D., is Senior Fellow at the Benton Institute on Broadband & Society, with a focus on technology adoption and digital inclusion. Horrigan has served as an Associate Director for Research at the Pew Research Center and Senior Fellow at the Technology Policy Institute. During the Obama Administration, Horrigan was part the leadership team at the Federal Communications Commission for the development of the National Broadband Plan (NBP).
  • Drew Clark, Editor and Publisher of Broadband Breakfast, also serves as Of Counsel to The CommLaw Group. He has helped fiber-based and fixed wireless providers negotiate telecom leases and fiber IRUs, litigate to operate in the public right of way, and argue regulatory classifications before federal and state authorities. He has also worked with cities on structuring Public-Private Partnerships for better broadband access for their communities. As a journalist, Drew brings experts and practitioners together to advance the benefits provided by broadband, and – building off his work with Broadband Census – was appointed Executive Director of the Partnership for a Connected Illinois under Gov. Pat Quinn. He is also the President of the Rural Telecommunications Congress.

BroadbandNow is a data aggregation company helping millions of consumers find and compare local internet options. BroadbandNow’s database of providers, the largest in the U.S., delivers the highest-value guides consisting of comprehensive plans, prices and ratings for thousands of internet service providers. BroadbandNow relentlessly collects and analyzes internet providers’ coverage and availability to provide the most accurate zip code search for consumers.

See also:

WATCH HERE, or on YouTubeTwitter and Facebook

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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Broadband Data

New Broadband Mapping Fabric Will Help Unify Geocoding Across the Broadband Industry, Experts Say

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Photo of Lynn Follansbee from October 2019 by Drew Clark

March 11, 2021 – The Federal Communications Commission’s new “fabric” for mapping broadband service across America will not only help collect more accurate data, but also unify geocoding across the broadband industry, industry experts said during a Federal Communications Bar Association webinar Thursday.

Broadband service providers are not geocoding experts, said Lynn Follansbee of US Telecom, and they don’t know where all the people are.

The new fabric dataset is going to be very useful to get a granular look at what is and what is not served and to harmonize geocoding, she said.

AT&T’s Mary Henze agreed. “We’re a broadband provider, we’re not a GIS company,” she said. Unified geocode across the whole field will help a lot to find missing spots in our service area, she said.

The new Digital Opportunity Data Collection fabric is a major shift from the current Form 477 data that the FCC collects, which has been notoriously inaccurate for years. The effort to improve broadband mapping has been ongoing for years, and in 2019 US Telecom in partnership with CostQuest and other industry partners created the fabric pilot program.

That has been instrumental in lead to the new FCC system, panelists said. It is called a “fabric” dataset because it is made up of other datasets that interlace like fabric, Follansbee explained.

The fabric brings new challenges, especially for mobile providers, said Chris Wieczorek of T-Mobile. With a whole new set of reporting criteria to fill out the fabric, it will lead to confusion for consumers, and lots of work for the new task force, he said.

Henze said that without the fabric, closing the digital divide between those with broadband internet and those without has been impossible.

Digital Opportunity Data Collection expected to help better map rural areas

The new mapping can help in rural areas where the current geolocation for a resident may be a mailbox that is several hundred feet or farther away from the actual house that needs service, Follansbee said.

Rural areas aren’t the only places that will benefit, though. It can also help in dense urban areas where vertical location in a residential building is important to getting a good connection, said Wieczorek.

The fabric will also help from a financial perspective, because of the large amount of funding going around, said Charter Communications’ Christine Sanquist. The improved mapping can help identify where best to spend that funding for federal agencies, providers, and local governments, she said.

There is now more than $10 billion in new federal funding for broadband-related projects, with the recent $3.2 billion Emergency Broadband Benefit program as part of the Consolidated Appropriations Act in December 2020 and the new $7.6 Emergency Connectivity Fund part of the American Rescue Plan that President Joe Biden signed into law Thursday.

The new FCC task force for implementing the new mapping system was created in February 2021, and is being led by , led by Jean Kiddoo at the FCC. No specific dates have been set yet for getting the system operational.

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