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200kbps Officially No Longer Qualifies As 'Broadband'
Only took the FCC a decade to stop making decisions based on bad data....
by Karl Bode 10:20AM Friday Jun 13 2008
I've been complaining about the way the FCC tracks broadband penetration in this country for years. The agency has long considered 200kbps to be a broadband connection, and believes that if one person in a zip code has broadband, that entire zip-code is wired for service. That's a fairly big deal, given they've made massive, sweeping changes to the industry over the last decade based on completely inaccurate data.

We can write reports that conclude that Americans are receiving broadband in a reasonable and timely fashion. But the facts are always there, glaring and staring us in the face, showing us where we really stand.
-FCC Commissioner Michael Copps
Given that more accurate data would highlight a lack of competition and coverage in many markets, the largest broadband providers have fought tooth and nail to prevent any change in this fairly convenient political scenario. Last March the FCC voted to finally change the way they track broadband after a decade of criticism.

The FCC has shifted the definition of broadband from 200kbps to 768kbps, probably not as high as it should be, but a vast improvement. The agency says they'll also start tracking both downstream and upstream speeds and will scrap the zip code tracking methodology for more substantive census-track level reporting. Carriers still won't be required to release data on the prices they charge for different speeds.

Today that order officially went into effect. But ironically, just as when the changes were announced in March, the news was accompanied by a yet another of the agency's infamous rose colored glasses reports (pdf) claiming all was well in the U.S. broadband market. While Commission boss Kevin Martin took time to pat himself on the back for ideas like deregulating the increasingly irrelevant powerline broadband industry, Commissioner Michael Copps was considerably more critical:
Based on a paucity of data – mostly primitive and generally-unhelpful – these reports claim progress that simply did not reflect reality. The data lacked a plausible definition of broadband, employed stunningly meaningless zip code measurements concerning its geographic distribution, ignored the prices people paid for broadband completely, and for years failed to look at what other countries were doing to get broadband deployed to their people.
And given the fact that this latest report used that same data methodology, Copps wasn't impressed:
We can write reports that conclude that Americans are receiving broadband in a reasonable and timely fashion. But the facts are always there, glaring and staring us in the face, showing us where we really stand. The fact is that your country and mine has never had any cognizable national broadband strategy to get the job done.
Actually mapping penetration is the first step. While much-needed changes finally arrived, they arrived only after a decade of in-fighting, during which industry lobbyists convinced Congress and the FCC to engage in sweeping deregulation of the industry, using flawed FCC data as a cornerstone. Perhaps the next time the FCC makes a decision that impacts the broadband market, they might actually know something about it.

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Tavistock NJ

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Suggestion for BBR broadband report on speeds

The FCC has a new grid for providers to report their speeds download & upload by census tracts.

Maybe someone at BBR could write a program to take the speed database info( »/archive?f=g ) BBR collects and plug counts in to this grid and then show the report based on BBR user speed tests. It could show how many speed test results fall in to each of the grid locations. And if some BBR programmer is really ambitious, they could then show a separate grid for each ISP provider in the database.

I realize that BBR does supply speed distribution graphs, but it would be helpful to see how the test results map in to the new FCC categories.

I put this suggestion in to the non-forum feature requests forum here at BBR. Add your thoughts there if you are interested:
»[request] New online report showing speeds in new FCC report for
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