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NTIA Seeks Access to FCC’s Form 477 Database for Better Broadband Data

WASHINGTON, November 30, 2009 – The National Telecommunications and Information Administration last week asked the Federal Communications Commission to release a key database of information about broadband deployment assembled from providers of high-speed internet access.

In a public notice dated Wednesday, November 25, the FCC said it intended to release this database — the Form 477 database — to the NTIA unless it received opposition from the carriers who have provided the broadband data by December 7, 2009.

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WASHINGTON, November 30, 2009 – The National Telecommunications and Information Administration last week asked the Federal Communications Commission to release a key database of information about broadband deployment assembled from providers of high-speed internet access.

In a public notice dated Wednesday, November 25, the FCC said it intended to release this database — the Form 477 database — to the NTIA unless it received opposition from the carriers who have provided the broadband data by December 7, 2009.

The NTIA requested access to the database in a letter from Tony Wilhelm, deputy associate administrator of the NTIA. The letter, dated November 23, 2009 but not yet available, was written to the head of the FCC’s Wireline Competition Bureau.

In its letter, NTIA explained that it wanted access to the Form 477 database in order to get a better idea about which areas of the country are served – and which areas are not served.

NTIA “intends to use this data to help validate the unserved or underserved classifications of the BTOP applicants’ provided funded service areas,” the public notice quotes Wilhelm’s letter.

BroadbandCensus.com, a sister web site to the news on broadband stimulus, wireless and the national broadband plan published on BroadbandBreakfast.com, has consistently urged that disclosure of the FCC’s Form 477 database would provide policy-makers and the general public with greater knowledge of broadband availability and competition. For a commentary about the public notice on BroadbandCensus.com, click here.

The FCC traditionally uses just such a “public notice” to alert providers to the possible disclosure of information in the Form 477 database. Following a lawsuit by the Center for Public Integrity filed on September 25, 2006, the FCC issued the following public notice “to service providers who filed FCC Form 477s with the Commission and sought confidential treatment of the information submitted.”

Further information on the Center for Public Integrity’s lawsuit seeking public access to the Form 477 database is available in this January 2007 piece and in this June 2007 piece.

News of the FCC’s public notice was first reported in StimulatingBroadband.com.

From the information available in the November 25, 2009, public notice, is unclear what information, if any, that NTIA gleans from the Form 477 database will be publicly disclosed.

On the one hand, the NTIA commits, in its letter to the FCC, to “protect confidential and propriety information from public disclosure to the fullest extent authorized by applicable law.”

But on the other hand, changes are coming to the world of broadband data. The very definition of the information that the NTIA has deemed “confidential” for the public of broadband data and mapping has changed dramatically in recent months.

The Notice of Funds Availability for broadband data and mapping, issued July 1, 2009, declared that information about the geographic areas in which providers offered service would be deemed “confidential information.”

Soon after the NoFA was released, the NTIA began to change its approach to confidentiality. In remarks at a forum in Charlottesville, Va., on July 27, NTIA Administrator Lawrence Strickling said that now was “a new era” for broadband data, including public data about carriers that provide high-speed internet service.

He said that he hoped and expected that carriers will allow information about the areas in which they serve to be made publicly available, as they do in Canada, he said…. Strickling also said that broadband incumbents that seek to challenge broadband applicants who argue that their areas are “underserved” will have to make such information public – and in the same format as the broadband data collection efforts underway nationwide. “We need the data: I think it is a national imperative in which this data be collected,” said Strickling, responding to a question about whether carriers will in fact provide states with the information necessary to create state-level broadband maps.

In addition, Strickling said that he expected carriers to “waive” confidentiality provisions in response to public pressure for data.

These commitments were followed up by a significant course-reversal by the NTIA on August 7, 2009. The agency changed the definition of “confidential” information to allow, and possibly require, the identification of carriers providing broadband service to individual Census blocks. Previously, information about the carriers that serve a particular Census block had been considered proprietary and confidential.

The agency reiterated its position in favor of disclosing carrier identities in its August 17 report to Congress, and in a September 10 press release highlighting the initial broadband data grants. In the Report to Congress, the NTIA said that “it intends to identify all broadband providers by name on the broadband map rather than leaving such identification to the discretion of the provider. These clarifications will help enable NTIA to build a robust, accurate broadband map for the benefit of consumers and policymakers.”

In response to questions from Broadband Census News in September, NTIA spokesman Mark Tolbert underscored that the recipients of broadband mapping grants are now required to collect and to publish this carrier information at the Census block level. “Applicants have always been required to collect and provide to NTIA the names of the providers at the address/Census block/street segment level (whichever level they collect at),” Tolbert said.

“As stated in the NoFA, ‘Applicants must provide a description of how the States broadband data will be publicly accessible, clearly presented, and easily understood by the public, government and the research community. Applicants must also describe the applicants’ proposed State-level map’,” Tolbert continued.

“Accordingly, NTIA expects that all non-confidential data (and names of providers at a census block/street segment level is not confidential) will be publicly accessible.”

Tolbert said that if a broadband grant recipient refused to collect and publish this data, they risk a de-obligation of funds. He also said that the NTIA will make the carrier-level data, at the Census block level, available to the public as soon it receives the information from the mapping grant recipients.

About Broadband Census News and Broadband Census Data

BroadbandBreakfast.com is published by Broadband Census News LLC, and BroadbandCensus.com has provided news and data about broadband access and deployment since January 2008. Broadband Census Data LLC produces commercial data services for cities, states, carriers, and educational institutions. Read more about us.

BroadbandCensus.com supplements “crowdsourcing” by internet users with a variety of data-collection techniques to create public and transparent broadband maps. BroadbandCensus.com has pioneered the Broadband SPARC: for Speeds, Prices, Availability, Reliability and Competition. See its beta map of Columbia, South Carolina at BroadbandCensusMaps.com.

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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Broadband Data

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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Broadband Data

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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