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National Broadband Plan: A Look at Chapter 3

WASHINGTON, March 29, 2010 – The third chapter in the Federal Communications Commission’s National Broadband Plan focuses on the current state of the broadband ecosystem. It sets out to show that the actual state of the broadband network is not about availability and the physical network but also consumer choice and usage.



Editor’s Note: This is the second in a series of articles written by staff summarizing each chapter of the FCC’s National Broadband Plan.

WASHINGTON, March 29, 2010 – The third chapter in the Federal Communications Commission’s National Broadband Plan focuses on the current state of the broadband ecosystem. It sets out to show that the actual state of the broadband network is not just about availability and the physical network but also consumer choice and usage.

The current state of the internet is the result of a decreasing cost of fiber and the expansion of fiber optic networks. The innovation fueled by this expansion allowed for new companies and products to be created thanks to this network and the overall adoption of these new technologies by consumers.

A recent Nielsen study shows that home broadband use has increased from one hour per month in 1995, to more than 15 hours per month in 2000, to almost 29 hours per month today. While the overall usage of the internet has expanded greatly, the amount of data that an individual uses varies greatly. In another study, the FCC shows that investment in information and communications technologies accounted for almost two-thirds of all economic growth attributed to capital investment between 1995 and 2005.

In regards to availability, the FCC cites U.S. Census data showing that 95 percent of the U.S. population has access to fixed broadband that is capable of speeds of up to 4 megabits per second. The largest gap in availability occurs in the middle part of the country while the coasts and high population areas have over 80 percent access. However, there are gaps in availability – most notably for rural health clinics and schools.

In the next section, the FCC tackles an issue which many consumer groups have been talking about for years – differences in actual vs. advertised network speeds. The FCC has found a large gap between the average speeds consumers actually receive and the advertised speeds. Internet service providers generally claim that their speeds grow by 20 percent annually.

The average download speed most Americans currently can get ranges from 6.7-9.6 mbps with an average of about 8 mbps; upload speeds however are around 1 mbps. However, looking at the actual download speeds, most Americans can only get about 3.1 megabits per second, which is 40 percent to 50 percent lower than the advertised speeds. The same holds true for upload speeds, with the actual being closer to 0.5 mbps.

This disparity however depends on the type of technology. Cable seems to have a better ratio of actual vs. advertised of digital subscriber line (DSL) and satellite has slightly higher differences. This problem is not unique to the United States. In the United Kingdom, studies found that actual speeds were typically about 57 percent of the advertised speeds.

The next section of the plan goes into mobile broadband availability. Many studies have shown that mobile broadband has become the predominant way for minorities and low-income individuals to connect, but the FCC chooses to focus on terrestrial-based connectivity since it provides the highest speeds.

Citing data from American Roamer, it looks like 60 percent of the U.S. land mass has 3G service. This constitutes about 77 percent of all the U.S. population. Twelve percent live in an area served by two providers while 9 percent live in an area served by one.

The expansion of 3G services soon will be ending as most mobile phone providers are looking to move to the faster 4G services such as long-term evolution (LTE technology) or WiMax.

Verizon Communications plans to cover over 285 million people with 4G by the end of 2013 while Sprint plans to use OneMax through its subsidiary company ClearWire. AT&T, along with Metro PCS, also plans to adopt LTE technology and start deployment in 2011, when LTE users will be able to more easily switch between networks.

Rahul Gaitonde has been writing for since the fall of 2009, and in May of 2010 he became Deputy Editor. He was a fellow at George Mason University’s Long Term Governance Project, a researcher at the International Center for Applied Studies in Information Technology and worked at the National Telecommunications and Information Administration. He holds a Masters of Public Policy from George Mason University, where his research focused on the economic and social benefits of broadband expansion. He has written extensively about Universal Service Fund reform, the Broadband Technology Opportunities Program and the Broadband Data Improvement Act

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Broadband Data

Many Data Points Required for Broadband Planning, Event Hears

An assortment of data will be useful in all phases of the broadband planning process.



Photo of Kristin Lardy of CORI

WASHINGTON, June 22, 2023 – Providers must invest in data collection for physical location, existing network infrastructure, and community needs and interests, advised the Center on Rural Innovation at a panel discussion Thursday.  

Physical location data includes a map of all buildings, identification of which buildings are eligible for or need broadband service, what services are provided, and fiber drop distances. Providers will need this information to understand how to utilize federal investment money from the Broadband Equity Access and Deployment program, which award amounts are set to be announced later this month. 

Not only will providers need information on poles, towers, hubs, and fiber infrastructure ownership but they will also need insight on community needs and interests, said presenters. These include barriers to access and customer interest in a new internet provider. 

This assortment of data will be useful in all phases of the planning process, said Kirstin Lardy, broadband consultant at CORI, such as the market analysis phase for penetration assumptions, network design for projected costs, and financial modeling for forecast of costs and revenues.  

Data can be collected from federal resources like the Federal Communication Commission’s national broadband and funding map, which can be used to determine what areas are covered by federal subsidy and where communities should focus their efforts.  

Further data is also available at the municipal level which often hosts information about location of structures, types of structures, vacant lots, addresses, pole data, power distribution paths and rights of way.  

Engaging with community anchor institutions is essential to building comprehensive and useful data sets, added Kristen Corra, policy counsel at the Schools, Health and Libraries Broadband Coalition. She urged providers to work with localities to gather information. 

States may also collect data directly from providers and users through speed tests, surveys, and censuses. 

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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.



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.



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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