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How Abraham Lincoln’s Belief in Equal Opportunity Animated a Passion for Infrastructure Improvements

SPRINGFIELD, February 21, 2011 – President Abraham Lincoln began his political career here with a passionate interest in infrastructure improvements.

America knows President Lincoln today because his belief in equal opportunity. What connects that which we know about Lincoln and that which brought him into public life?



February 12, 2019 – Editor’s Note: Around the time of Presidents’ Day eight years ago, I wrote this piece about the connection between Abraham Lincoln’s passion for infrastructure improvements and his belief in equal opportunity, and I linked it to the then prevalent – and still prevalent – pressing need for infrastructure improvements for rural broadband. On Abraham Lincoln’s 210th birthday, this remains our homage to our 16th president: Applying the principles that inspired past leaders of the problems we face today. A few years later, I did another take on infrastructure in Lincoln’s home state: “What Henry Clay’s and Abraham Lincoln’s ‘Internal Improvements’ Means for Gigabit Infrastructure Today

SPRINGFIELD, February 21, 2011 – President Abraham Lincoln began his political career here with a passionate interest in infrastructure improvements.

America knows President Lincoln today because his belief in equal opportunity. What connects that which we know about Lincoln and that which brought him into public life?

“Lincoln knew firsthand the deprivations, the marginal livelihood of the subsistence farmer unable to bring produce to market without dependable roads,” writes historian Doris Kearns Goodwin. “Primitive roads, clogged waterways, lack of rail connections, inadequate schools — such were not merely issues to Lincoln, but hurdles he had worked all his life to overcome in order to earn an ampler share of freedom.”

Today’s “internal improvements” aren’t about canals or railroads, but about an information superhighway — one that needs to run through all the towns, villages and boroughs of our united nation.

These improvements are, in a word, about broadband.

Under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of February 2009, our nation’s communications agencies were charged with investing in broadband infrastructure, devising a plan to encouraged improved utilization — and to map it. And last Thursday, February 17, marked a new day for broadband data collection with the release of the National Broadband Map (NBM), at

Commentary has only just begun to emerge about this significant map. It will take some time to digest the enormity of more than 25 million items of data.

Three of the most important aspects about the national broadband map are: carrier confidentiality; measuring speeds and prices; and matching data about supply with data about demand.

Putting Broadband on the Map

The most important single fact about the NBM is that it includes the identities of broadband providers, on a Census block-by-Census block basis. That’s pretty important. Imagine a list of airline flight reservations without knowing which company’s plane you’d be flying on.

Broadband carriers have resisted this disclosure for years. On the one hand, this resistance is mysterious, given that consumers know who sells them broadband. Plus, wireless companies are known for waving their colored coverage maps on television ads. On the other hand, carriers have a instinctive reaction against having their service areas directly compared against, and exposed to, their competitors.

But the time for these arguments is now passed. Consider how far we have come. In September 2006, while at the non-profit Center for Public Integrity, we filed a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit to obtain the Federal Communication Commission’s Form 477 database, which contains the names of carriers at the ZIP code level. An average of 7,750 people live in a single ZIP code. In other words, they are not that granular. Census block information isn’t address level information, but it’s a lot closer to addresses. An average of 38.75 people live within a single Census block. That gives a fairly decent representation of whether service is truly available to the consumer who inquires.

We lost the lawsuit over ZIP code broadband data, but momentum in favor of carrier disclosure ultimately has been accepted by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration. Initially, the NTIA’s July 1, 2009, rules, said that carrier information, even at the Census block, would be confidential. Fortunately, it quickly changed its mind. On August 7, 2009, the NTIA declared, in the Federal Register, that “a service provider’s footprint will likewise no longer be included in the definition of confidential information.”

Entities funded by the NTIA must collect and submit this carrier information to NTIA. And Census block-level carrier data is now published on the National Broadband Map. It’s also available to State Broadband Data and Development entities – like Broadband Illinois – and is visible on our map at Perhaps more significantly, this data has been released via Application Programming Interfaces to software developers. It is public data, free for any conceivable use and reuse.

Speeds and Prices

The NBM has detailed data about which carriers offer service where. It allows the user to distinguish cable modem service and DSL service from wireless offerings. It renders displays with a degree of analytical capability previously lacking. There are also great visualizations of broadband based upon particular demographic information.

Two complaints are been being made about NBM, Version 1.0. The first are questions about accuracy. The second is the lack of price data, and of actual speed test data.

With regard to the accuracy of the data, it’s important to think about what is now being seen, for the first time: carriers claim that they offer broadband in areas that they may not actually serve. Until we had the NBM, which identifies these carriers in their Census blocks, this fact was hidden. But now that carrier footprints are publicly available, a public verification process may begin. This is the work that all of us are engaged in.

Including actual speed test results and prices will also be vital. Again, knowing the carrier is the key to unlocking the usefulness of this data. I launched in January of 2008 in order to “crowdsource” broadband data across multiple dimensions. We called this the Broadband SPARC — for speeds, prices, availability, reliability and competition. These elements are necessary components for understanding, and ranking, the economic and broadband vitality of regions, counties, and Census sub-units.

Crowdsourcing is difficult to get started. But it will ultimately be more useful than carrier data. Think of it as the difference between a regular road map, for example, and the traffic maps that you can click on and off using Google Maps. The web site of Broadband Illinois includes a broadband speed test component that is collecting carriers’ actual speeds, with consumer ratings. We are also collecting and publishing consumers’ monthly prices. Having this information will aid everyone’s quest to understand the health of our broadband networks.

Supply and Demand

The next step for the NBM is not as a map. Ultimately, the NBM needs to stand for the National Broadband Mashup. That means that it should provide data and functionality from multiple sources, creating new services in the process.

Two experiences illustrate the point. Before the opportunity arose for me to move to the Land of Lincoln and lead the Partnership for a Connected Illinois (also known as Broadband Illinois), Broadband Census created its own beta map of the state of broadband, including carriers, technologies and advertised speeds, in Columbia, South Carolina. We did this without any access to carrier-supplied data. In other words, there are lots of data sources that can be combined in a common-sense fashion and generate useful results.

The other experience concerns the U.S. Broadband Coalition, a large and diverse coalition whose formation presaged the National Broadband Plan. The group offered many recommendations that were included in the FCC’s plan. I had the opportunity to co-chair the Metrics Working Group with Rob Atkinson of the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation. Our group generated a surprising amount of consensus around a series of recommendations. One of these recommendations was the creation of a National Broadband Data Warehouse. The stated goal was to assemble as much raw data, from as many sources as possible, into a repository from which mashups and analyses can be performed.

One of the most vital of these sources of new broadband information will be about the ways and areas in which broadband could be effectively used. Basic carrier information is now available about the “supply” of broadband. This data will be refined, verified and checked through crowdsourcing, and through comparisons with other public sources. Now is time to ensure that information about broadband “demand” is also being collected and imported into national and state broadband warehouses.

All told, the United States spends more than $8 billion a year on various forms of statistics. Much of that goes to fund the U.S. Census Bureau and data collection about agricultural and labor markets, such as the monthly unemployment report. These are important. But remember that we are no longer fundamentally an agriculture- or even labor-based economy. Whether for rural and for urban areas – and Illinois has both in abundance – the pathway to opportunity today runs through the super-high-speed internet connectivity.

Today, that’s something that Abraham Lincoln would surely appreciate.

This Expert Opinion commentary originally appeared on Broadband Illinois at on Monday, February 21, 2011.

Drew Clark is the Executive Director of the Partnership for a Connected Illinois, or, which is the designated entity under the State Broadband Data and Development grant program based in Springfield, Illinois. Through convening stakeholders, the creation of local eTeams, and other activities, has the mission to build a statewide effort to make the case that Better Broadband Leads to Better Lives. Additionally, Drew is the founder of and

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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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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Broadband Data

Small ISP Organizations Push FCC for Flexibility on Broadband Label Compliance

Advocates say strict compliance requirements may economically harm small providers.



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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