Larry Strickling Says Now is a ‘New Era’ for Public Broadband Data from Carriers

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va., July 27, 2009 – The top official at the National Telecommunications and Information Administration said Monday that that now is “a new era” for broadband data, including public data about carriers that provide high-speed internet service.

“Whatever the tradition is, this is a new era,” said Strickling, the assistant secretary of commerce, speaking at the Virginia Summit on Broadband Access at the Piedmont Virginia Community College here.

He said that he hoped and expected that carriers will allow information about the areas in which they serve to be made publicly available, as they do in Canada, he said. (Carriers on Ireland’s national broadband map also allow themselves and their service areas to be identified.)

Strickling also said that broadband incumbents that seek to challenge broadband applicants who argue that their areas are “underserved” will have to make such information public – and in the same format as the broadband data collection efforts underway nationwide.

“We need the data: I think it is a national imperative in which this data be collected,” said Strickling, responding to a question about whether carriers will in fact provide states with the information necessary to create state-level broadband maps.

“I think it is a new era, and I think that carriers will eventually get the message and come along,” he said.

If carriers refuse to comply with the imperatives for providing broadband data, Strickling specifically said, “There are other ways to collect this: there are survey techniques, and other ways to collect this information short of the carrier.”

“We have appropriated $350 million” to this task, and “we are expecting the states to be creative, to be collaborative, to work together, and to find some new ways to collect the data, whether or not it is supplied by the carrier.”

Strickling concluded: “Once that is made clear to them, at the most senior levels, then this thing will work itself out.”

When asked specifically about why the NTIA chose to follow, in its data and mapping Notice of Funds Availability, an approach that favors granting confidentiality for carriers, Strickland replied: “We hope that carriers waive that” confidentially.

He said that cable providers may be the first to start offering this data under public pressure, which will “draw others out” and that “the public pressure will carry everybody else along.”

“We are somewhat hopeful that as we get the data, our sense is that [companies will become] quite comfortable with being publicly identified. We don’t really see this as being a huge problem longer term.”

“But to get this thing started off, we need to protect that confidentiality, or at least give carriers the [option] of retaining that.”

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