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Broadband Mapping & Data

Broadband Roundup: House Energy and Commerce to Focus on Broadband Maps, Rural Digital Divide Woes, C-Band Sharing

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Photo of Rep. Mike Doyle from March 2010 by Laura Norden used with permission

Adding congressional oversight to the growing mix of interest in the broadband mapping debate, the House Energy and Commerce committee announced that the Communications Subcommittee will hold a hearing on “Improving  the Nation’s Broadband Maps” on Wednesday, September 11, at 10:30 a.m. in Room 2322 of the Rayburn House Office Building.

The FCC recently issued an order and sought additional comment on the next phase of a digital mapping project. For important background about the goals of broadband mapping, see Drew Clark’s piece on “Broadband Maps Are a Mess, So Now Let’s Focus on Actually Improving Them” or other topical pieces on Broadband Breakfast.

“Accurately mapping the availability of broadband internet service across America is essential to promote the deployment of high-speed service to Americans living in unserved and underserved areas,” said subcommittee Chairman Mike Doyle, D-Penn., and committee Chairman Frank Pallone, D-N.J.

“This FCC doesn’t have a clear picture of where broadband is or isn’t available,” said Doyle and Pallone.  “Congress must take action to ensure the reliability of our nation’s broadband maps so investments in affordable and high-speed broadband infrastructure can close the broadband gap once and for all.”

As the school year begins, rural students are on the other side of the digital divide

Allen Pratt, executive director of the National Rural Education Association, argues that policymakers in Washington should remember that at least 6.5 million students will be stuck on the other side of the digital divide.

Writing in the Hill, Pratt argues that 70 percent of teachers assign homework requiring a broadband connection, which creates a gap between those students who have good broadband and those who don’t. He also highlights the role that NREA has played, since 1907, in focusing on improving the quality of education for rural communities.

“There are few issues today that are more critical to that mission than expanding broadband connectivity in rural America,” he said.

Over at the American Action Forum, William Rinehart explains that rural broadband issues are not exclusively a U.S. problem. Former Norwegian Minister for Transport and Communication Ketil Solvik-Olsen faced criticism for his government’s inability to get rural coverage in northern Norway.

Even though Denmark outranks the U.S. on broadband, it too struggles with getting broadband in the countryside. And while the German government has considerable sums on a broadband project, experts have warned that there is “‘no way’ Germany could get all its citizens connected via fiber or terrestrial mobile.”

WISPA touts growing momentum for spectrum sharing

The Wireless Internet Service Providers Association on Wednesday released a 233-signature industry letter to members of Congress, urging them to intervene in the FCC’s consideration of 500 megahertz of radio frequencies in the C-Band.

WISPA is opposing the “auction only” approach of allocating the C-Band exclusively for commercial use.

“Though we support the rapid development of next generation, 5G mobile broadband services, we harbor concerns about how that would be done,” write the signatories, which include a wide range of WISPS. The “auction only” approach “would greatly limit meaningful access to that valuable spectrum for our companies, consequently exacerbating the digital divide.”

Upcoming broadband events for the day ahead

On Friday, Silicon Flatirons a the University of Colorado Law School at Boulder will host an event, “The Near Future of U.S. Privacy Law,” with an accompanying livesteam.

Drew Clark is the Editor and Publisher of BroadbandBreakfast.com and a nationally-respected telecommunications attorney. He has closely tracked the trends in and mechanics of digital infrastructure for 20 years, and has helped fiber-based and fixed wireless providers navigate coverage, identify markets, broker infrastructure, and operate in the public right of way. He brings experts and practitioners together to advance the benefits provided by broadband. 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

Federal Communications Commission Approves New Provider Transparency Requirements

Broadband providers must now create “broadband nutrition labels” which list pricing and speed information.

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Photo of FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel from January 2015 by the Internet Education Foundation used with permission

WASHINGTON, January 28, 2022 – The Federal Communications Commission voted Thursday to require that broadband providers create “broadband nutrition labels” that list information on the pricing and speed of internet service they provide.

The labels mimic food nutrition labels in format and aim to increase transparency of providers in their marketing to consumers.

With their approval at the commission’s monthly open meeting Thursday, Commissioner Geoffrey Starks said the new rules are crucial to consumers being able to find the best deals on broadband service for their personal needs.

Commission Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel praised the label format, saying that it allows consumers to “easily compare” information and that it is “black and white, simple to read, and easy to understand.”

The long-simmering idea was enacted by Congress in the bipartisan infrastructure bill signed by the president on November 15. It directed the FCC to revive the project by one year from the law’s passage.

On Thursday, Joshua Stager, New America’s deputy director for broadband and competition policy at its Open Technology Institute, called the vote “a welcome step forward and a win for consumers.” The think tank began promoting the idea last decade, and it had been endorsed by the Obama administration before being canned by the Trump administration.

Industry group Wireless Internet Service Providers Association said the transparency afforded by the new policy “provides consumers with important tools to make informed choices.”

Additionally in Thursday’s meeting, when the agency tentatively revoked telecom operator China Unicom Americas’ operating authority in the United States, the agency said they had reached out to the Department of Justice for assistance in responding to what they say are potential threats from the China-based company. This inter-agency review is routinely part of determinations involving foreign-owned telecommunications companies.

The agency also updated its definition of “library” to make clear that Tribal libraries are eligible to receive funds under the Universal Service Fund’s E-rate program.

Starks emphasized that the commission’s action represented progress on digital inclusion efforts, but that unfamiliarity of Tribal libraries with the E-rate program remains a problem.

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Broadband Mapping & Data

Ookla Fourth Quarter Report Puts T-Mobile as Fastest, Most Consistent Wireless Provider

T-Mobile ranks fastest mobile provider, improving on third quarter performance.

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T-Mobile president Mike Sievert

WASHINGTON, January 18, 2022 — Metrics company Ookla reported Tuesday that speed test data from the fourth quarter of last year show that T-Mobile was the fastest and most consistent mobile operator, the Apple iPhone 13 Pro Max is the top device in terms of popularity and download speeds, and Google is the top manufacturer when it comes to download and upload speeds.

The latest report, for the months of October, November and December, showed T-Mobile’s median download speed was 90.65 Megabits per second, while runner-up AT&T had a median download speed of 49.25 Mbps and Verizon came in at 44.67 Mbps. The District of Columbia had the fastest median mobile download speeds in the United States with 100.38 Mbps, with T-Mobile being the fastest mobile provider in 42 states.

T-Mobile also had a significant jump in terms of 5G performance, said the Tuesday report. In the third quarter, T-Mobile’s median 5G download speed was 135.27 Mbps, while Tuesday’s report shows their median 5G download speed was 187.12. Verizon came second with a median speed of 78.2 Mbps and AT&T was third with a median speed of 68.82 Mbps.

In the United States, the fastest popular device manufacturer was Google. Google’s median download speed was 60.82 Mbps, Samsung’s was 52.80, and Apple’s was 52.76.

However, the iPhone 13 Pro Max was the most popular and fastest device overall, with a median download speed of 90.58 Mbps and the iPhone 13 Pro following closely behind at 89.61 Mbps.

In the report, only Verizon, AT&T, and T-Mobile were mentioned as internet providers, and Apple, Google, and Samsung were the only device manufacturers included.

Each month, Ookla collects data from Speedtest users to report the internet speed at their location, and the data from those tests are used to generate their quarterly reports.

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Broadband Mapping

NTIA National Broadband Availability Map Expands to New States and Territories

Nevada, Louisiana, American Samoa and Puerto Rico will join.

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WASHINGTON, December 29, 2021 – The National Telecommunications and Information Administration said Tuesday it will expand its National Broadband Availability Map to include Nevada, Louisiana, American Samoa and Puerto Rico.

The NBAM, which now includes 38 states and two U.S. territories, is a geographic information system platform that allows for visualization and analysis of federal, state and commercially available data on broadband availability.

It is designed to better inform administrators’ broadband projects and funding decisions in their states.

Additionally, it includes five federal agencies: the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the U.S. Department of the Treasury, the Bureau of Indian Affairs, the Economic Development Administration and the Appalachian Regional Commission.

In June, the NTIA also released to the public a digital map that includes key indicators of broadband needs across the U.S. This “Indicators of Broadband Need” tool “is the first interactive, public map designed to bring multiple third-party data sources together to help” public understanding of the digital divide and broadband affordability issues, the NTIA said.

The map shows overall great need for broadband access in the rural western U.S. compared to areas of the country such as the northeast and many parts of the Midwest.

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