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Broadband Data Collection and Validation Must Be Rethought, Experts Say at Breakfast Club

WASHINGTON, February 10, 2010 – The head of the Federal Communications Commission’s internal “think tank” said Tuesday that the agency was taking a fresh look at all aspects of its broadband data-collection processes: collection, validation and analysis, and dissemination.

Speaking to a roomful of panelists and telecom officials who attended Tuesday’s Broadband Breakfast Club in spite of the snow, Office of Strategic Planning Chief Paul de Sa said that the agency was sensitive to the need to balance proprietary information with the desire for transparency in its data-collection processes.

In a keynote on the topic of “Setting the Table for the National Broadband Plan: Collecting and Using Broadband Data,” de Sa began by asking questions that frame the work of the agency on broadband data.

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WASHINGTON, February 10, 2010 – The head of the Federal Communications Commission’s internal “think tank” said Tuesday that the agency was taking a fresh look at all aspects of its broadband data-collection processes: collection, validation and analysis, and dissemination.

Speaking to a roomful of panelists and telecom officials who attended Tuesday’s Broadband Breakfast Club in spite of the snow, Office of Strategic Planning Chief Paul de Sa said that the agency was sensitive to the need to balance proprietary information with the desire for transparency in its data-collection processes.

In a keynote on the topic of “Setting the Table for the National Broadband Plan: Collecting and Using Broadband Data,” de Sa began by asking questions that frame the work of the agency on broadband data.

He outlined aspects of the data collection process: the staff must ask themselves whether they are collecting the right data, they must validate and analyze the data, and then create a process to disseminate the data. He added that there is also an inherent struggle between the principle of transparency and protecting proprietary data.

“ We are not trying to solve problems by creating immediate policy,” said de Sa, after outlining aspects of the agency’s data-collection processing. Effective use of broadband data involves defining the problem to be solved, coming up with a hypothesis, analyzing the data and either creating policy or reassessing the hypothesis.

Some major policy issues to be addressed in the broadband plan that will be released on March 17, 2010, include deployment, adoption as well as choice and competition.

The data that the FCC is looking at to solve some of these include data from the National Telecommunications and Information Administration’s mapping efforts, the FCC’s Form 477 data, which has been collected from carriers since 2000, periodic surveys, plus data from American Indian tribes, and crowd sourced data.

Drew Clark, Editor and Executive Director of BroadbandBreakfast.com, moderated the discussion and began by asking the panelists to explain what the Form 477 database is, and to discuss whether it was still a meaningful data source for broadband information?

Michelle Connolly, associate professor of economics at Duke University, explained that the FCC requires broadband providers to report the number of subscribers within a given Zip code. Connolly also said that the requirement to provide such data was not enforced.

Connolly said that the Form 477 database was the only systematic nationwide data-set. Additionally, the information is useful to asses historical data.

Connolly proposed that broadband providers be given identity numbers so that their coverage area over time could be tracked without revealing their identities.

Jeffery Campbell, senior director of technology and government affairs at Cisco Systems, said that the data about providers was readily discoverable. A consumer can go to any internet service provider’s web site, plug in their Zip code and see if they can receive service.

The more important question to focus on, said Campbell, is who does not have broadband at a household level?

But Connolly said that the cost of including address-level data would be too great a burden upon providers.

Broadband mapping experts Brian Webster said that measurements conducted using the U.S. national grid system allow coverage areas to be shows at levels even better than the Census block without the need for cooperation from carriers. Address-level data, he said, was frequently imprecise.

(Editor’s Note: Webster and his WirelessMapping.com firm are partners with BroadbandCensus.com, the sister company of BroadbandBreakfast.com, in offering states, counties and broadband stimulus applicants with Census-block-level information about broadband providers, technologies, speeds and prices.)

John Horrigan, director of consumer research for the FCC’s omnibus broadband initiative, addressed the challenges of constructing and merging consistent data-sets.

Horrigan said that expanding Form 477 would be analytically useful, “if there is harmonization in data sets then there is a position for rich data analysis.” Horrigan went on to discuss the survey conducted of non-adopters and small businesses in the fall of 2009. The data will be released soon after the release of the national broadband plan, said Horrigan.

Clark asked the panelists their perspectives on coordinating with the NTIA on broadband data.

De Sa said that data collected from disparate sources could be merged into the same format — it will just take a lot of comparisons and hard work.

Connolly said that Congress went about broadband data collection in a strange way. “Why not have one company do this job properly as opposed to having a bunch of them do it wrong?”

Campbell agreed that it makes more sense to collect this data once and collect it the right way. “We need to rethink what we need to know.” He believes that the right data is out there, and efforts should be made to work with providers to find out how they are collecting their data.

Webster added that there is a lot of private-sector data-sets available for purchase with valuable broadband information.

A member of the audience that represented a small wireless provider in a rural state worried about the disclosure of broadband data spurring anticompetitive behavior. This provider said that his company had submitted Form 477 data but has not complies with the NTIA’s mapping efforts for fear that such data would be made public.

Connolly and Campbell countered that withholding such data is not necessary, because competing telephone incumbents can observe the same information through observation.

Connolly – leaving early to catch a flight back to North Carolina – ended her comments by posing a question to the panel about the importance of collecting data about small businesses, not just consumers.

Horrigan agreed: it is very useful to survey businesses and find out how small business are using broadband. Webster noted that when surveying business it is important to note the differences in industries, where some types of businesses are more broadband-driven than others.

Horrigan stressed the great research being done in the academic community. When it cames to these researchers, having low-cost data is very important.

Campbell said, however, that “we need data with a clear public purpose [focused on] whether consumers have affordable quality broadband available to them.”

If the FCC and the NTIA stray from such a clear public interest focus, and instead seek information that will be primarily of benefit to private-sector providers, then very few broadband providers will be willing to provide broadband data, he said.

The video-recording of the February 9 Broadband Breakfast Club will be available on BroadbandBreakfast.com, for FREE, within the week.

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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