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AT&T and Verizon Spearhead Granular Broadband Mapping Program With Address-Level Availability

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WASHINGTON, March 21, 2019 – The nation’s leading telecommunications companies on Thursday announced a new broadband mapping pilot initiative that aims to geolocate each address in the country, and link each location with broadband providers that offer service to that address.

At a launch event joined by Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai, the broadband association US Telecom announced its Broadband Mapping Initiative Consortium, featuring AT&T, Verizon, and other wireline providers.

The consortium has the support of ITTA and the Wireless Internet Service Providers Association, two groups that represent smaller broadband providers. The notably absent party is the U.S. cable industry, which has traditionally refused to disclose granular broadband data about broadband service.

The mapping consortium will begin their pilot in Virginia and Missouri, geolocate every address, and create what they call a “broadband serviceable location fabric” to identify structures (e.g., houses, buildings) to which broadband access would be required.

If deployed as advertised, this broadband data-set would be significantly more granular than the currently-outdated National Broadband Map. Launched in 2011, the map has not been updated since 2016. Under a partnership with the Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications Information Administration and state broadband initiative entities from every state and territory, the FCC mapped the availability of broadband providers at the census block level.

“It will take a new approach to broadband mapping to bring the power and promise of broadband to every home and business in our country,” said Jonathan Spalter, CEO of US Telecom. He said his association was “leading the charge to definitively map internet service in American and complete the job of connecting the country through broadband – the 21st century’s indispensable resource.”

Chairman Pai praises the initiative and the political imperative of better broadband maps

In his remarks at the event, Pai touted his efforts to reform the Form 477 data collection process.

“Under my leadership, the [FCC] began to explore ways to improve the quality, accuracy, and usefulness of the data we collect on fixed and mobile broadband service,” said Pai. “We have sought public input on how to make the data we get more granular and standardized.”

He added: “The mapping pilot project they are announcing today is intended to help flesh out the record in our Form 477 reform proceeding. By testing new ideas on the ground, it is my hope that this pilot and similar initiatives will give the Commission and other stakeholders useful information to consider as we move ahead.”

Members of Congress — particularly advocates of rural broadband — have been restless and disappointed with the National Broadband Map, as well as the default successor method of broadband data collection: Reliance on the FCC’s Form 477.

At a panel following the event that was moderated by US Telecom Vice President Lynn Follansbee, Senate Commerce Committee Counsel Dan Ball said: “There is a fervor a bipartisanship” about getting better broadband data.

“I don’t think there has been a hearing on broadband deployment in the last several years where members have not stressed the importance of reliable, accurate and sufficient” broadband data, said Ball.

US Telecom noted this congressional dissatisfaction in the fact sheet that accompanied the news release:

“Policymakers at the federal and state level recognize current broadband mapping needs reinvention. They also recognize they need strong industry partners to get this done. Broadband providers are seizing the opportunity to lead the charge on an innovative approach to broadband availability reporting.”

Granular broadband data that is publicly available

Much of the messaging at the US Telecom event centered around the digital divide between urban and rural areas, with the telecom companies positioning themselves as now favoring the sort of public and granular-level mapping.

Census block-level data — the lowest level of data collected by the U.S. Census Bureau — can work well in urban and suburban areas, Spalter said in his remarks at the launch.

That is not the case, however, in rural areas, “where census blocks are far larger than their urban and suburban counterparts and homes and businesses can be set back a significant distance, sometimes miles, from the road that forms the basis for their address,” he said.

With its new support for an address-level map, wireline carriers appear to be betting that public disclosure will provide more benefits than keeping broadband maps at the census block level.  Spalter confirmed that the US Telecom pilot map would disclose whether a particular carrier offered service (or could offer service) to a particular address.

If successful, the association expects that the government would fund a similar address-level broadband map at the national level, and expects a national broadband map would cost $10 million to produce. (US Telecom has hired CostQuest to assemble its database.)

In addition to AT&T and Verizon, the other US Telecom members participating in the program include CenturyLink, Consolidated, Frontier, RiverStreet Networks and Windstream. TDS is also participating.

That, in itself is a remarkable turnaround. In 2007, the telecom and the cable industry jointly attempted to thwart the release of Form 477 broadband data on a ZIP-code level, an effort spearheaded by the Center for Public Integrity, and which led to the founding of BroadbandCensus.com mapping and crowdsourcing project.

The issue of public disclosure of broadband availability was finally settled in February 2011, when the National Broadband Map identified broadband providers, but only at the census block level.

In its new fact sheet, US Telecom now speak about the benefits of mapping and measuring at an extremely detailed level:

  • For network providers, you can’t deploy what you can’t map. The the Broadband Mapping Initiative will:
    • Harnesses the power of new digital resources, mapping databases and crowdsourcing platforms combined with existing provider service address information;
    • Improve understanding of unserved/served areas, resulting in better cost estimates, deployment time, and progress;
    • Enable more effective targeting of funds in current and future government programs;
    • Speed rural America’s access to broadband benefits including eCommerce, eLearning, and telehealth.

Wireless Internet Service Providers are in, but NCTA cable industry group is out

While small wireless internet service providers chose to join, the cable industry did not.

“It is a partnership that US Telecom has been at the forefront of, but we believe it is a good project to get the right data out, so that we know where broadband is, and more importantly, where it isn’t,” said a spokesman for WISPA. Broadband mapping at an address level allows the country to “promote the subsidy program in the right way.”

Asked why cable broadband providers have chosen not to join the consortium, a spokesman for NCTA, the cable industry group, said:

“NCTA has submitted its own proposal to the FCC for reforming the Form 477 process in the near term and we are focused on that proposal.  We think the USTelecom pilot project may ultimately produce information that is valuable in the context of developing future support programs, but it does not seem to be a near-term solution to the concerns people have expressed about broadband maps.  We don’t think the two proposals are mutually exclusive and we’ve encouraged the Commission to move forward with our proposed Form 477 reforms while the pilot is pending.”

(Photo of US Telecom CEO Jonathan Spalter at the launch of the Improving Broadband Mapping Consortium on March 21, 2019, by Drew Clark.)

Breakfast Media LLC CEO Drew Clark is a nationally respected U.S. telecommunications attorney. An early advocate of better broadband, better lives, he founded the Broadband Census crowdsourcing campaign for better broadband data in 2008. That effort became the Broadband Breakfast media community. As Editor and Publisher, Clark presides over news coverage focused on digital infrastructure investment, broadband’s impact, and Big Tech. Under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, Clark served as head of the Partnership for a Connected Illinois, a state broadband initiative. Now, in light of the 2021 Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, attorney Clark helps fiber-based and wireless clients secure funding, identify markets, broker infrastructure and operate in the public right of way. He also helps fixed wireless providers obtain spectrum licenses from the Federal Communications Commission. The articles and posts on Broadband Breakfast and affiliated social media, including the BroadbandCensus Twitter feed, are not legal advice or legal services, do not constitute the creation of an attorney-client privilege, and represent the views of their respective authors.

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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