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Broadband Expert Q&A: Dan Hays Talks Broadband Mapping, Grants

WASHINGTON, December 29, 2009 – Dan Hays, director of the telecommunications practice at the management consulting firm PRTM, told Broadband Census News Monday that his company has some serious concerns about the overall direction of a government program to distribute funds to spur broadband penetration across the nation. Hays added that the division of grants and programs by state to gather information that will be used for a national broadband map “is driving unnecessary fragmentation.”

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WASHINGTON, December 29, 2009 – Dan Hays, director of the telecommunications practice at the management consulting firm PRTM, told Broadband Census News Monday that his company has some serious concerns about the overall direction of a government program to distribute funds to spur broadband penetration across the nation. Hays added that the division of grants and programs by state to gather information that will be used for a national broadband map “is driving unnecessary fragmentation.” For a more in-depth explanation from Hays read the Q&A below:

Broadband Census News: What is going to happen to the money Congress allocated earlier this year for broadband stimulus programs?

Hays: Despite the meager awards to date in the first round of the broad band stimulus program, we remain hopeful that the promise of the broader $7.2 billion of awards will be fulfilled by the third quarter of 2010. However, we have some serious concerns about the overall direction of the program, particularly in light of the first awards that were announced. Doling out $7.2 billion in such small amounts places the program at significant risk of wasting a tremendous opportunity to bring broadband to millions of Americans in need. The awards also lack a cohesive strategy and unified set of communications technologies, further fragmenting the country’s broadband infrastructure.

Recipients of the first awards lack the critical mass and depth of experience necessary to have a material impact on the Unites States’ broadband gaps. Awards to date have been made to largely small, sub-scale service providers. Most of the recipients so far do not have a proven ability to rapidly and efficiently deploy the associated capital. We believe that there is a significant risk that many of the projects receiving awards will never see their first user. Past rural broadband programs have had extremely high failure rates, and nothing has been done to correct this in the new program. The stimulus program lacks clear criteria for awardees to demonstrate deployment, launch, and operational capabilities. In many communities, the ability to fund monthly recurring charges will remain a major obstacle, inhibiting uptake of broadband services

Broadband Census News: What will happen in regards to government efforts to give state grants to provide data that will be used for a national broadband map? Will states meet their deadlines?

Hays: The division of grants and programs by state is driving unnecessary fragmentation. Approaches to data collection, validation, and integration are being reinvented over and over again. The unusual structure of the broadband mapping program leads us to believe that there are many problems to come. Many state-level programs will struggle to achieve critical mass.

We expect that incumbent service providers will be less than enthusiastic about providing their coverage data at appropriate levels of resolution. State-level programs should expect delays up front, and even anticipate the need to re-do some collection far down the road.

The continued lack of a national broadband map will be an obstacle for many months to come, if not longer. The FCC’s national broadband strategy continues to be encumbered by the lack of a map. Both the BIP and BTOP stimulus programs will see even more application protests in the absence of a cohesive and comprehensive broadband map.

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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