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NTIA’s Request for Comments on Broadband Data Spurs Concerns About FCC’s Form 477



WASHINGTON, August 7, 2018 – Many in the broadband industry commenting on broadband availability data exposed the weaknesses of current Federal Communications Commission data – and not only in the data itself but in the process by which it is collected.

The Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications Industry Association conducted a request for comments on actions that could be taken to improve the quality and accuracy of broadband availability data, particularly in rural areas.

Although the FCC regularly conduct requests for comments on broadband-related matters, the NTIA weighs in more sparingly. The agency’s May 30 Request for Comments followed a directive of Congress in the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2018.

In it, the NTIA said that it sought “input from a broad range of interested stakeholders—including private industry; academia; federal, state, and local government; not-for-profits; and other stakeholders with an interest in broadband availability—on ways to improve the nation’s ability to analyze broadband availability, with the intention of identifying gaps in broadband availability that can be used to improve policymaking and inform public investments.”

Form 477 a chief item of criticism; diverse suggestions on tackling it

The FCC has previously faced criticism for utilizing inaccurate data from “Form 477.” Collected for nearly two decades, the Form 477 was first collected at the census tract level.

Following the introduction of the NTIA’s State Broadband Initiative program of the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, NTIA and FCC collaborating on collecting broadband data at the census block level, a much finer level of geography.

Several State Broadband Initiative entities collected data at the sub-census block level, too.

In its request for comment, the NTIA said it wanted to focus particularly on whether and how the data could be improved.

It said: “This data also demonstrates that there continued to be a significant disparity across America, with more than 30 percent of rural Americans and approximately 35 percent of those living on Tribal lands lacking broadband availability, compared to 2 percent of Americans living in urban areas.”

Diverse set of responses to NTIA’s request, with US Telecom urging a rural focus

A diverse list of companies, associations, and government bodies issued responses to NTIA’s request, which was due on July 16.

US Telecom argued that NTIA’s efforts to collect sub-census block data may continue to be ineffective due to lack of understanding over where unserved locations actually are.

According to US Telecom, the root of the problem is not “an inaccurate view of where broadband exists” but rather that “unserved locations are not mapped at all.” Because they are unmapped, the unserved areas remain excluded from policies to deploy broadband access.

“It is therefore our recommendation that NTIA concentrate its limited resources on augmenting the National Broadband Map with a more fulsome set of rural geocoded locations that may exist in the hands of other government entities,” US Telecom said.

Utah’s broadband office says that coverage by census block coverage overcounts broadband

The Utah Governor’s Office of Economic Development commented that in the FCC’s current model, in “any census block that is partially covered,” all residents – including those unserved – in the census block could be made ineligible for all federal broadband programs. The partially covered census block could be ineligible even if the majority of residents are unserved.

To remedy this situation, the Utah recommended that the “NTIA and the FCC should work with providers and state broadband mapping programs to coordinating data and mapping efforts in order to collect actual provider footprints.”

WISPA opposes FCC efforts to collect granular broadband data

The Wireless Internet Service Providers Association expressed concern that new efforts by the FCC to collect more granular data could press heavy demands on small service providers, who may have difficulty collecting such specific data.

“Data-collection efforts that seek broadband deployment at the sub-census block level will create new burdens on small broadband providers that will be ill-equipped to provide information at a more granular level,” WISPA said.

WISPA also noted that obtaining granular data can be costly and time-consuming for small business who may have to purchase new software or upgrade existing technology.

Microsoft recommended “visualization and analytic tools” to collect, analyze, compare, and display information drawn from the data. By providing visualization tools, the data FCC collects will reach a greater audience and “help users better understand broadband availability” to decrease data input errors.

Microsoft hones in on a crucial distinctions: Actual service versus potential service

Microsoft also recommended that the FCC change the language specified in the data collection form to ensure that providers are reporting the areas that actually provide service to, not areas where they “could” provide service.

“We are aware of a rural county in which the FCC’s data reports six fixed broadband providers and 100 percent of the 2000-plus census blocks as having broadband access meeting the FCC’s 25/3 Mbps definition. Interestingly, about two-thirds of the census blocks in that county have a population of zero,” Microsoft said.

Two broadband providers reported they could provide broadband access, despite that they actually were not serving the residents, as “customer service representatives for these providers confirmed that they do not provide residential services in these communities.”

(Screengrab of NTIA Adminstrator David Redl speaking at the Phoenix Center in December 2017.)




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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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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