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Surprise: More Criticism of FCC Broadband Data
54% broadband growth rate only really 27%?
by Karl Bode 10:57AM Wednesday Feb 07 2007
We've long noted that the FCC's broadband penetration data isn't terribly useful. That's because they consider symmetrical 200kbps to be broadband, and they also believe that if one customer in a zip code has broadband, that zip code is "broadband wired." Critics are torn over whether this is simple incompetence or intentional manipulation to justify a hands-off deregulatory position. Either way, the GAO has faulted the data as inaccurate, consumer groups have sued to obtain real zip code data and the commissioners themselves have complained that their methodology "is not a credible way to proceed."

Still, every six months the FCC releases the data as required by the 1996 Telecom Act, which declared that if the FCC found anything wrong, they were supposed to take immediate steps to fix it. Yet, according to the FCC, nothing is ever wrong with broadband penetration in America, and nothing substantive in their data collection methodology ever changes.

Well, almost nothing. In the latest release (pdf), David Isenberg (via Techdirt) notes that the FCC is now including 11 million cellular broadband connections in order to proclaim that terrestrial broadband Internet connectivity grew by 54%. Isenberg argues it's not fair to include these capped, pricey and restrictive connections because they violate the FCC's own free-access guidelines, and without them, the U.S. broadband growth rate is only actually 27% -- which would mean it has the 26th fastest growing number of broadband Internet access lines.

This falls into the realm of more muddy criticism over FCC data, such as their declaration that a zip code that can only get satellite broadband is broadband wired (anyone who has ever been stuck on satellite would probably contest that). Whether you agree with Isenberg or not, finding additional errors with the FCC's data collection methodology at this point is kind of like lamenting the lack of clean hand towels in a burned-out crack den. "The bottom line, we need to go beyond industry-supplied, FCC-massaged data," says Isenberg.

It mirrors the statement of FCC Commissioner Copps in a recent Senate hearing: "Have us gather better statistics about our country's woeful broadband situation," he urged. "Set our agency's talented engineers and policy gurus to work writing reports and teeing up options for you to consider about how we can inject life back into our nation's stagnant broadband market."

The reality is that no matter how many people complain, this just isn't happening until there's a leadership change at the FCC (perhaps someone with a technical bent?). It should be noted that FCC chief Kevin Martin's "top priority," broadband over powerlines (BPL), still failed to make any significant inroads in this latest report - at just over 5,000 total connections.

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JTRockville
Data Ho
Premium,MVM
join:2002-01-28
Rockville, MD

Verizon's use-it-and-lose-it EVDO counts as broadband?

Astonishing.

Maxo
Your tax dollars at work.
Premium,VIP
join:2002-11-04
Tallahassee, FL

Great article.

Just wanted to give a thumbs up to Karl Bode See Profile for a great write up. Wish we had more like this at BBR.
systems2000
What? You Say It's Fixed. Hah

join:2001-11-29
Cyberspace

Re: Great article.

I agree!
PDXPLT

join:2003-12-04
Banks, OR

Why they use misleading data ...

quote:
Still, every six months the FCC releases the data as required by the 1996 Telecom Act, which declared that if the FCC found anything wrong, they were supposed to take immediate steps to fix it.
Since Martin, et al, are laissez faire ideologues, they believe the total lack of regulation must lead to broadband nirvana for everyone, no matter what the reality turns out to be. This belief requires them to conclude that any data which shows broadband deployment is proceeding well must be accurate, while any data that shows otherwise must be wrong. Their belief system requires them to think this way; they'd probably self-destruct if they attempted to think otherwise.

This is no different than Paul Bremer's belief that total laissez faire policies in newly-occupied Iraq would lead to a paradise in the Mid East, or Mike Brown's idea that privatizing FEMA as much as possible was the best method to prepare for emergencies.

FFH5
Premium
join:2002-03-03
Tavistock NJ
kudos:5

Cellular/wireless broadband is where broadband is going ....

... for the future and to NOT count it is ludicrous. Everyone, including BBR says wireless broadband is the future. So, why shouldn't the FCC count it as broadband growth?
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Rob
In Deo speramus.
Premium
join:2001-08-25
Kendall, FL
kudos:2
Reviews:
·Comcast

Re: Cellular/wireless broadband is where broadband is going ....

said by FFH5:

... for the future and to NOT count it is ludicrous. Everyone, including BBR says wireless broadband is the future. So, why shouldn't the FCC count it as broadband growth?
" Isenberg argues it's not fair to include these capped, pricey and restrictive connections because the[y] violate the FCC's own free-access guidelines, and without them the U.S. broadband growth rate is only actually 27% -- which would mean it has the 26th fastest growing number of broadband Internet access lines. "

Pretty much sums it up.
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Stumbles

join:2002-12-17
Port Saint Lucie, FL

Re: Cellular/wireless broadband is where broadband is going ....

Yep with the main point IMO being the FCC CANNOT even follow their own guidelines. If that don't smack of incompetence I don't know what does. The FCC is nothing but a laughing stock of a government organization.
CMoore2004
Premium
join:2003-02-06
Jonesville, MI
Perhaps Sprint's should. A 5GB limit with Verizon can really be considered a broadband connection? 200kbps allows for over 60GB/month.

nixen
Rockin' the Boxen
Premium
join:2002-10-04
Alexandria, VA
said by FFH5:

... for the future and to NOT count it is ludicrous. Everyone, including BBR says wireless broadband is the future. So, why shouldn't the FCC count it as broadband growth?
Fixed wireless? Sure, that's valid. Mobile wireless? Uh, no particularly given the draconian limitations that pretty much go hand-in-hand with mobile wireless.

-tom
--
"Experience should teach us to be most on our guard to protect liberty when the government's purposes are beneficial. The greatest dangers to liberty lurk in insidious encroachment by men of zeal, well meaning but without understanding." -Louis D Brandeis

TScheisskopf
World News Trust

join:2005-02-13
Belvidere, NJ

Can there be any more question...

That "ChairShill" Kevin Martin is as useless as mammalian protruberences on a male of the genus sus?

Any one of us should try handing off such specious data to our bosses, on the job, and see how many femtoseconds we last.

JTRockville
Data Ho
Premium,MVM
join:2002-01-28
Rockville, MD

1 recommendation

Re: Can there be any more question...

Even if that's what your boss asked for?

TScheisskopf
World News Trust

join:2005-02-13
Belvidere, NJ

Re: Can there be any more question...

said by JTRockville:

Even if that's what your boss asked for?
Then, you should start looking, seriously and aggressively, for new employment. Why? Because when the boss get's his procreative nodules in a mangle over the bad data, he's gonna blame you and deny all knowledge.

You will take the hit, while the lying slug gets off.

Karl Bode
News Guy
join:2000-03-02
kudos:42

Re: Can there be any more question...

Technically in this instance "taking the hit" will mean getting a million dollar a year job working at a think tank whose entire function is to spawn bad data....

Karl Bode
News Guy
join:2000-03-02
kudos:42
Listen you two...the sooner you get on board and start blaming everything on "regulatory uncertainty," the better off we're going to be.

TScheisskopf
World News Trust

join:2005-02-13
Belvidere, NJ

Re: Can there be any more question...

said by Karl Bode:

Listen you two...the sooner you get on board and start blaming everything on "regulatory uncertainty," the better off we're going to be.
Sorry, Karl. I will make sure I get my meds upped, so I can get into the correct and drooling frame of mind for such a position.

JTRockville
Data Ho
Premium,MVM
join:2002-01-28
Rockville, MD

Re: Can there be any more question...

Ditto

T1 Rocky

join:2002-11-15
Dallas, TX
Karl -
Thanks for posting the story. One thing I don't follow though is if satelite is considered broadband then shouldn't the FCC stats reflect that American broadband penetration is 100%? Also, in the story it mentions that USA is 26th in the world in terms of broadband penetration. Who and how is that determined?

I think that with the telco's two pronged attack of lobbyists getting biased legislation passed and buying the media through MONSTER advertising budgets, we are only going to slip deeper further and further behind the rest of the world.

Karl Bode
News Guy
join:2000-03-02
kudos:42

Re: Can there be any more question...

quote:
One thing I don't follow though is if satelite is considered broadband then shouldn't the FCC stats reflect that American broadband penetration is 100%?
Technically they say there's some satellite service in 90% of zip codes. I assume they're eliminating people with line of site issues. Cable modem and DSL are available to at least one customer in 88% of zip codes, according to the FCC.

The 26th in the world ranking is pulled from Isenberg's piece. I believe he takes the 11 million cellular total and subtracts it from the 54% growth, then compares it to OECD data.

For the record, I don't think adding 3G customers to this total is nearly as big of a deal as he does -- more important to me would be valid penetration data and bumping the minimum speed criteria to something more reasonable -- at least 1Mbps.

JTRockville
Data Ho
Premium,MVM
join:2002-01-28
Rockville, MD
Not everyone can get satellite, and there's a reason why the adoption rate is so pitiful.

T1 Rocky

join:2002-11-15
Dallas, TX

Re: Can there be any more question...

Sorry, I'm still confused. I thought satelite was available everywhere on the planet unless your underground. So who is an example of someone who can not get satelite internet?
MGP

join:2001-01-01
Olathe, KS

Re: Can there be any more question...

I have a friend that lives in a subdivision built in a tree-lined ravine. It's a beautiful subdivision but you can't get any kind of satellite based service there as the only "line-of-site" available is basically straight up...

I would say he qualifies as "satellite service not available".

Karl Bode
News Guy
join:2000-03-02
kudos:42
I think you need a 45 degree line of sight (I forget the degree) -- lots of people are blocked by buildings, trees, mountains, etc.

JTRockville
Data Ho
Premium,MVM
join:2002-01-28
Rockville, MD

Re: Can there be any more question...

...not to mention north-facing apartments...

Lots of things can get in the way of your "clear view of the southern sky".
Ahrenl

join:2004-10-26
North Andover, MA
There's also the point that you need to have the right type of satellite pointed at you. How cost efficient is it to launch a few geosynchronous satellites that provide adequate coverage to norther montana or maine. One satellite doesn't cover 1/2 the planet at once, plus there's that whole orbiting thing..

T1 Rocky

join:2002-11-15
Dallas, TX

Re: Can there be any more question...

All - Thanks for the clarification.
nasadude

join:2001-10-05
Rockville, MD
Reviews:
·Verizon FiOS
i find it hard to believe there are zip codes where not a single person can get satellite.

as we all know if a single person in a zip code can get a service, the whole zip code can get it

ergo, satellite should be available (according to the FCC) 100%!

evdodude

@spcsdns.net

Re: Can there be any more question...

Satellite uses spot beams, and each beam can only accommodate a limited # of users. (200?) So once QOS gets too low, they refuse to sign up any more users in that area. (Usually when it's way beyond good service.)

Also, Sprint EVDO is unlimited so it should be included in the figures.
haplo2112

join:2003-05-12
Charlton, MA

Its all defined wrong...

...Broadband needs to be redefined as something at least closer in speed to the other countries that its all measured against. The US should be in the lead, with the fastest speeds, the highest penetration and cheapest prices.

A 10/5 connection should be the minimum to be called broadband.

Over 50% of an area code covered or it doesn't count. AND it must be serviced by at least two providers, wireless doesn't count!

halfband
Premium
join:2002-06-01
Huntsville, AL

1 edit

Re: Its all defined wrong...

said by haplo2112 :

The US should be in the lead, with the fastest speeds, the highest penetration and cheapest prices.
The US leads in the production and consumption of McChickens. Unfortunately we are a long way from being a leader in broadband.
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Registered Bandwidth Offender #40812
biobob

join:2003-09-04
Bayside, NY
The US will never be a leader in broadband speeds. It's just too big for the ROI to be worth it to most companies. I think the FCC should define broadband as 1.5m/256k and the focus on making sure every American has that. Let the free market worry about the speed.
systems2000
What? You Say It's Fixed. Hah

join:2001-11-29
Cyberspace
10/5 is a nice target, although more realistic values of 3/256, provided by three providers to 65% of a ZIP Code would be in-line with what is very feasible ROI by private enterprise, if the Right-of-Way issues can be opened to free access and Point-of-Entry issues can be resolved.

richardpor
Fur it up

join:2003-04-19
Portland, OR

No News Here

Hey where’s the fire?
Frankly, I do not see what all fuss is. There are many factors from hurdles from government to simply the market reached its saturation point. Outside the activism of DSL reports I do not see the general public clamoring for very high speed connections. its more like that’s nice and they go about their daily business.

Broadband penetration will never justify one more tax payer broadband boondoggle.
systems2000
What? You Say It's Fixed. Hah

join:2001-11-29
Cyberspace

Re: No News Here

The problem isn't that people don't care, it's that they don't see a need for 6/8/10/15Mbps broadband at $60/mth, when 1.5 or 3 at $19-$24/ mth would be of more interest.

DoctorDoom
Troll hunter
Premium
join:2006-09-19
Becket, MA

Satellites are not evil

quote:
(anyone who has ever been stuck on satellite would probably contest that)
I'm a HughesNet user in an otherwise unserved rural town in MA. There is exactly zero possibility of any option BUT satellite here. The telco and cable companies have stated flatly that they have no intention of, nor interest in, wiring the town for broadband. Re FIOS, an invasion from Mars is almost infinitely more likely. And being of a practical bent, I agree with them that it is financially unjustifiable. The installation and maintenance costs could not be recouped.

Critics are fond of citing countries where broadband penetration is vastly higher than in the US. They neglect to note that America's rural area is larger than most of those countries, and that population density is the determining factor for broadband deployment.

A wireless broadband company is exploring this area for a Motorola Canopy setup, but they don't call it the Berkshire Hills for nothing. The geography limits the utility of wireless.

There is nothing that big government can do to change the laws of economics. Unless some magical technology is developed that can make it profitable to wire 38.7 square miles with about 200 households (5.17 per square mile), the situation will not change, and the town will continue to choose between 28.8 Kbps max dialup or satellite. As for me, a consistent off-peak speed of 1 Mbps with HughesNet Pro vs 20-24 Kbps typical with POTS does not represent a tough choice. It isn't fiber, but ...

•••••••••••
inurenegade

join:2006-06-11
Wilmington, DE

thx fcc

thank you FCC for limiting america's broadband by lying to the public. you are truely a terrible organization
patcat88

join:2002-04-05
Jamaica, NY
kudos:1

i can do worse

I really need to go into government, I can do worse, pay 400K per house to be wired with broadband to incumbant telcos with 100 year no-CLEC agreement. Remember folks, if its not explicitly made illegal by congress, its legal!
short09

join:2006-07-21

the fcc is incompetent

there are w worthless goverment agency that doesnt deserve to exist. they dont do anything in regards to makin sure ths usa is anywhere near the top 5 in broadband access. i think they should be disbanded forever

batterup
I Can Not Tell A Lie.
Premium
join:2003-02-06
Netcong, NJ

Whaaaaa, whaaaaa.

So what are you people going to do to get broadband to the great unwashed? Nothing, just bitch and moan and let the leaches suck the network builders dry; that is the way to get every pig pen and chicken coop wired for 100/100.