By Mercy Gakii, Reporter-Researcher, BroadbandCensus.com; and Rahul Gaitonde, Reporter, BroadbandCensus.com
WASHINGTON, October 15, 2009 – Six public interest organizations, including Consumers Union, on Wednesday filed comments with the Federal Communications Commission urging the agency to protect consumers from misleading and confusing advertising and billing practices by phone, cable and wireless providers.
The consumer groups argue that current protections are insufficient and urge the FCC to require meaningful, not misleading, disclosure.
These groups would like to force billing and advertising practices which are more transparent and easier to understand. These companies often offer introductory rates and special offers to some customers which then change without consumers knowing in advance when their rates will be affected.
The other organizations were Consumer Federation of America, Free Press, Media Access Project, the New America Foundation and Public Knowledge.
“When consumers have the facts, they can make informed choices,” said Chris Riley, policy counsel of Free Press. “Consumers are being bombarded with inconsistent and incomplete information when shopping for service providers or plans, and then they are baffled by misleading and confusing bills once they sign up. Customers invest a lot of money in these services and spend a great deal of time using them. That’s why the FCC must ensure truth in billing and must establish clear disclosure rules so that consumers do not fall victim to the dubious and misleading practices of their phone or Internet access providers.”
“The [FCC] can and should adopt stronger consumer protections for a broad range of services typically ‘bundled’ together by providers, including voice, video, and broadband Internet access offerings on both wireline and wireless platforms,” said Matt Wood, associate director of Media Access Project. “Competition between providers depends on the free flow of truthful information to potential and existing customers. The Commission has ample jurisdiction and justification to adopt rules requiring the disclosure of the actual costs and limitations of service plans.”
“Today, a consumer needs an accounting degree to navigate the terms of service and understand what they’re actually paying for,” said Joel Kelsey, Policy Analyst with Consumers Union. “Otherwise, it seems like your phone and cable bill can change month to month.”
The groups criticized practices commonly used by the phone and cable industry including internet access services being labeled with theoretical “maximum speeds,” rather than actual speeds, and with the actual speeds lagging behind advertised rates by up to 50 percent.
Service providers often deliberately obscure the real cost of services with misleading advertising that hides fees, surcharges, promotional periods, early termination fees and bundling requirements, the groups said.
The groups called the “Speed Boost” service the most confusing of these adverting phrases — because the ads say that the service gives customers a boost in service during “high traffic” times. Consumers are unable to determine, they said, if they are actually getting this boost in speed.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Broadband Breakfast on Wednesday, September 15, 2021 — A ‘Consumer Confidence’ Survey for Broadband
BroadbandNow launches a “consumer confidence” survey.
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
- “Access and Impacts: Exploring how internet access and home and online training shape people’s online behavior and perspectives about their lives,” by John Horrigan
- For BroadbandNow’s open data set on availability, affordability and speed: https://github.com/broadbandnow
- To contribute or to ask questions about the BroadbandNow survey, please reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org.
- 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.
- Broadband Breakfast Interview with Tyler Cooper and Jenna Tanberk about Open Data Set from Broadband Now, November 20, 2020
- Broadband Breakfast Interview with BroadbandNow about Gigabit Coverage and Unreliable FCC Data, December 27, 2020
- Broadband Breakfast Interview with BroadbandNow about Lower Costs and Lower Latency, February 25, 2021
- Broadband Breakfast Interview with John Busby of BroadbandNow About FCC Data Errors, July 1, 2021
As with all Broadband Breakfast Live Online events, the FREE webcasts will take place at 12 Noon ET on Wednesday.
New Broadband Mapping Fabric Will Help Unify Geocoding Across the Broadband Industry, Experts Say
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.
- Congressional Witnesses Say Lack of Agency Resources is Holding Back Government Cybersecurity Efforts
- Biden Acts on Surveillance, Florida Broadband Maps, Free State Wants Constitutional Spectrum
- Sen. Alex Padilla Emphasizes Billions in Broadband Funds for California
- Ask Me Anything! Friday with Craig Settles, Community Telehealth Pioneer at 2:30 p.m. ET
- Frances Haugen, U.S. House Witnesses Say Facebook Must Address Social Harms
- Pole Access Delays Cost Americans Millions a Month, Report Claims
Signup for Broadband Breakfast
Broadband Roundup4 months ago
Senators Intro App Bill, Groups Drop TracFone Buy Complaint, States Want Shorter Robocall Deadline
Antitrust4 months ago
Daniel Hanley: Federal Communications Commission Must Block Verizon’s Acquisition of TracFone
Broadband Roundup3 months ago
Mapping Comment Deadline Extended, AT&T Gets Federal Contract, 5G and LTE Drive Microwave Demand
#broadbandlive3 months ago
Broadband Breakfast on September 1, 2021 — What’s Next for Broadband Infrastructure Legislation?
Broadband Roundup2 months ago
Cox’s Wireless Deal with Verizon Dies, Apple Appeals Epic Games Case, AT&T’s Fiber Investment
Broadband Roundup3 months ago
FCC and FTC Announce Open Meeting Agendas and AT&T Signs Deal with OneWeb
Antitrust4 months ago
Antitrust Experts Zero In on Big Tech and Consumer Welfare Standard at Aspen Forum
Expert Opinion3 months ago
Shrihari Pandit: States Can Enable Broadband Infrastructure Through Open Access Conduits