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BroadbandCensus.com: Setting the Table for the National Broadband Plan

WASHINGTON, October 30, 2009 – Over the summer, BroadbandCensus.com split our operations between the news and events that we host, and the Creative Commons database with the local broadband SPARC: the Speeds, Prices, Availability, Reliability and Competition in the local broadband marketplace. As we’ve now entered the fourth year of this saga in which BroadbandCensus.com has been leading the charge for public and transparent broadband data, much has changed about the opportunity that we face, and our country faces, in bringing better broadband data to consumers, and to policy-makers. In previous versions of this series of blog posts taking stock, I’ve highlighted our efforts to start the ball rolling on crowdsourcing broadband data, and on uniting scholars and state officials through the “Broadband Census for America” conference that we hosted on the eve of the passage of the Broadband Data Improvement Act. Today, I’d like to speak about some of the major changes that 2009 has brought to BroadbandCensus.com – particularly as both our news and our data side have helped to set the table for the national broadband plan currently under development. In the final series of these blog posts, next week, I plan to unveil some of the major changes in store as we relaunch BroadbandCensus.com.

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WASHINGTON, October 30, 2009 – Over the summer, BroadbandCensus.com split our operations between the news and events that we host, and the Creative Commons database with the local broadband SPARC: the Speeds, Prices, Availability, Reliability and Competition in the local broadband marketplace.

As we’ve now entered the fourth year of this saga in which BroadbandCensus.com has been leading the charge for public and transparent broadband data, much has changed about the opportunity that we face, and our country faces, in bringing better broadband data to consumers, and to policy-makers.

In previous versions of this series of blog posts taking stock, I’ve highlighted our efforts to start the ball rolling on crowdsourcing broadband data, and on uniting scholars and state officials through the “Broadband Census for America” conference that we hosted  on the eve of the passage of the Broadband Data Improvement Act.

Today, I’d like to speak about some of the major changes that 2009 has brought to BroadbandCensus.com – particularly as both our news and our data side have helped to set the table for the national broadband plan currently under development. In the final series of these blog posts, I plan to unveil some of the major changes in store as we relaunch BroadbandCensus.com.

Broadband Census Data LLC and the Richland County Map

Later today, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration will host NTIA will host a public meeting, the Broadband Data Transparency Workshop, “regarding data related to broadband Internet access that the agency collects, data needs of researchers, and future broadband research.” It’s impossible not to be struck by the way in which policy officials are now focused on this vital principle: broadband data should be publicly available. At BroadbandCensus.com, we’ve always viewed transparency about the carriers that provide broadband service as central to building a consumer-friendly database that serves the needs of multiple constituencies.

Because BroadbandCensus.com has also become a prominent news organization in the field of broadband reporting, over the summer our parent entity, Broadband Census LLC split our operations into two separate entities: Broadband Census Data LLC, and Broadband Census News LLC. The data side of our operations on BroadbandCensus.com has been super-active in promoting the need for what we’ve called the National Broadband Mashup, and in proving that a public and transparent broadband map can be done.

One of the key marking points in this activity was the creation of our broadband map for Richland County, South Carolina. Working with Benedict College, an historically black college in Columbia, S.C., and the South Carolina Broadband Coalition, BroadbandCensus.com built a beta map of the 8,078 Census blocks in the county. For each Census block, our team identified the presence or absence of broadband, the type of technology through which broadband was provided, the speeds at which broadband speeds are advertised, and the names of the carriers that offer the service.

We did this in a matter of weeks, and extremely tight budget. The results are visible for all to see at http://BroadbandCensusMaps.com. (Please note: the rendering capacity only works with the Firefox and Safari web browsers. Buildout to Internet Explorer and Chrome await the next phase of the project.) Because the speeds listed in the database that accompanies the broadband map are promised, and not actual speeds, we are working to incorporate the speed test data that we’ve been collecting – at our Take the Broadband Census page – for nearly two years now.

Pushing for Better and More Robust Public Data

Broadband Census Data is also an applicant for federal broadband stimulus funds, under the Public Computing Center portion of the Broadband Technologies Opportunities Program. Together with our long-time partners at Virginia Tech’s eCorridors Program, BroadbandCensus.com submitted a joint application whose objective is “to develop national-level user-generated data about broadband, focused on public anchor institutions (libraries, schools, colleges, public buildings, civic centers, transportation hubs) by creating a national network of speed test servers; engaging in outreach to public computer centers; [and] building a friendly web interface to collect and publicly release broadband data.” We look forward to review of our application by the NTIA.

Through our Broadband Census Data subsidiary, BroadbandCensus.com has also been extremely involved in private-sector efforts to promote national standard for the collection of public and transparent broadband data. I was very happy to participate as Co-Chair of the Metrics Working Group of the U.S. Broadband Coalition with Rob Atkinson, President of the Information Technology and Information Administration. Rob and I led a diverse group to seek common ground in crafting a series of six policy options that will promote – going forward – a much more robust and united approach to collecting and publishing broadband data.

BroadbandCensus.com continued to seek input and collaborate with the top telecommunications researchers and policy analysts. Last month, the Benton Foundation, BroadbandCensus.com, and the New America Foundation hosted a session – we dubbed it “Beer and Broadband Mapping” at the at the Telecommunications Policy Research Conference.

Setting the Table with the Broadband Breakfast Club

Even as our data side has had an extremely busy series of months, the news operations of BroadbandCensus.com have also expanded and grown. More than 16 individuals have written for our news side since we began covering broadband technology and internet policy in early 2008 – and posted more than 620 stories on BroadbandCensus.com. Among the reporters and writers who have written for us include Andrew Bennett, Stephen Bone, Winter Casey, Jennifer Clark, Cassandre Durocher, Andrew Feinberg, Rahul Gaitonde, Mercy Gakii, Christina Kirchner, William Korver, Jesse Masai, Tina Nguyen, Douglas Streeks, Cody Williams, Ryan Womack, and Alex Tcherkassky. As I mentioned previously, big changes are in store in the near future, and I look forward to announcing them soon.

Our news side is focused on three coverage areas: the national broadband plan, the broadband stimulus, and wireless broadband policy. I would like to highlight one of our ongoing reporting projects – our coverage of the FCC’s workshops in developing a national broadband plan. As we did with the NTIA’s workshops on crafting the broadband stimulus, and in analyzing comments that parties made in the lead-up to the Notices of Funds Availability, we’ve been sending reporters to cover these events since mid-August, and have assembled a growing collection of these reports, which are available for FREE on our website.

BroadbandCensus.com also hosts Premium Content for our subscribers, which provides analysis and insight into the key areas that we cover.

Perhaps the most visible facet of our news and events operation, however, is the Broadband Breakfast Club. We’ve been hosting this open discussion forum, now held at Clyde’s of Gallery Place, on the Second Tuesday of each month since October 2008. With a wide range of speakers – including House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee Chairman Rick Boucher, D-Va., and House Majority Whip James Clyburn, D-S.C., the Broadband Breakfast Club’s has become a key destination point for top experts and policy-makers to share breakfast and perspectives on broadband technology and internet policy.

Currently, we’re in the midst of a series, “Setting the Table for the National Broadband Plan,” which will run until February 9, 2010, one week before the FCC’s plan is due to Congress. The Broadband Breakfast Club is sponsored by International Broadband Electric Communications, Inc., the Benton Foundation, and the National Cable and Telecommunications Association.

In September, we considered the FCC’s summer broadband workshops. Earlier this month, we hosted an event on “Health Care and Telemedicine,” with four top doctors who see broadband as a key ingredient to health care reform. Video of the October 13 event is available here, for FREE.

Our forthcoming Broadband Breakfast Club, on broadband and the environment, energy conservation and telecommuting, is taking place on Tuesday, November 10, with panelists including: Jennifer Alcott, Telework!VA Program Manager, Commonwealth of Virginia; Kevin Moss, Head of Corporate Social Responsibility, BT Americas; and Steven Ruth, Professor, George Mason University School of Public Policy. Registration is available at http://broadbandbreakfast.eventbrite.com

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.

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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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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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