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Rising Tide of Data Uses From Wireless Devices Forcing Changes in Internet Usage Patterns, Say Experts at Broadband Breakfast Club

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WASHINGTON, February 20, 2013 – Policy-makers and consumers alike are struggling to grapple with a rising-tide of data usage from wireless devices, according to the chief of the Federal Communications Commission’s wireless bureau and panelists speaking at the Broadband Breakfast Club on Tuesday at Clyde’s of Gallery Place. Panelists noted the challenges that data caps have on younger and inexperienced internet users.

The FCC has been grappling with rising smartphone penetration rates, with the number of mobile subscribers rising every quarter since 2009; subscription rates have gone from 21 percent in the fourth quarter of 2009 to 55 percent in the second quarter of 2012. Over that same time period, recent acquirers of smartphones went from 30 percent to 67 percent. In other words, two thirds of recently-acquired devices are smartphones.

And to Ruth Milkman, Chief of the FCC’s Wireless Telecommunications Bureau, this demonstrates an increase for demand which in turn necessitates access to more radio-frequencies for broadband transmissions.

Throughout her keynote address, Milkman discussed the FCC’s desire to keep up with the demand driven by today’s tech culture. She believes that demand can only be facilitated by an increase in spectrum availability. More than four years ago, the FCC had predicted a dramatic 1200 percent increase in mobile data traffic between 2009 and 2012. The actual number was even higher: 1275 percent.

In addition to the amount of wireless broadband capacity, the number of mobile providers is also important to the FCC, said Milkman, whether that be to “small town in rural West Virginia or to public works in Washington.” More than 50 percent of non-rural U.S road miles are covered by 5 or more broadband providers, while the same is true of only 4 percent of rural roads.

During the panel portion of the event, entitled “Data Caps, the Spectrum Crunch and the Wireless Home,” panelists discussed the limitations, from the consumer’s point of view, of tiered data plans. Nick Feamster, associate professor in the College of Computing at Georgia Tech, discussed his own personal tests on data cap usage. Feaster noted differences in the capacity of a home router and a mobile router, and argued that some people may know how much data it takes to process emails on their phone, would be in the dark about data consumed in watching Netflix on a computer.

Applications and data interfaces need to become more user-friendly, so that customers are fully aware of what they are doing with their devices. Without it, consumers don’t know when they hit a data cap.

Young people are often unaware of how much data they process, said panelist Roger Entner, founder of Recon Analytics. “The highest users of data are young adults who use their smartphones as if they were desk-top computers,” he said, although he noted that carriers are improving the capacity of their networks. Entner agreed with Feamster that most users do not know how much data they transmit. In fact, said Feamster, individuals often download a free application on their phone, unaware that it will use more data, and could end up costing them more than pay applications.

Patrick Lucey, a policy researcher at the Open Technology Institute of the New America Foundation, used his own enjoyment of personal gaming as foil for something that consumes data – but is very unclear of how much data is transmitted. Lucey also discussed a recent development by video game companies to eliminate hard copies of gaming discs. This, in turn, leads to exclusive downloading of software from gaming companies.

Added Serena Viswanathan, staff attorney at the Federal Trade Commission: broadband carriers need to be more up-front about what the user is getting out of an application and plan, and what sort of limitations may be in place. Questions about data consumption are no longer exclusively the province of tech-savvy users, she said. For example, both of her parents use Apple’s iPad, but neither are adept to how data is processed or transmitted.

Editor’s Note: To see video excerpts from the February Broadband Breakfast Club, please visit https://broadbandbreakfast.com/2013/02/video-excerpts-from-februarys-broadband-breakfast-club-on-data-caps/.

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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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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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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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