FCC: 68% Of U.S. Connections Slower than 3 Mbps Down, 768kbps Up
(pdf) from the FCC suggests that most consumers aren't getting speeds that technically adhere to the agency's new definition of broadband, which was recently changed to 4 Mbps downstream and 1 Mbps upstream. According to the study, more than two-thirds (68%) of the 90,963,000 U.S. broadband connections tracked were too slow down or upstream (or both) to technically qualify as high-speed service -- not even meeting 3Mbps/768 kbps. 58% of connections measured (76,594,000 connections) were slower than 3 Mbps downstream. 49% of connections (65,942,000 connections) featured upstream speeds slower than 768kbps.
Some of those users may be on slow connections by choice. Some of those users may be on slow connections because the lack of any significant competition means companies aren't pressured to upgrade their networks. The FCC study doesn't specify because the FCC study doesn't take a real look at competition.
As we've complained about for years, the FCC has traditionally made broadband policy decisions based on flawed and incomplete data. Part of the 1996 Telecom Act required that the agency release quarterly reports on the status of broadband deployment. Unfortunately for consumers, that data has always been slightly better than useless -- with the FCC declaring any zip code that has just one served broadband customer in it to be "wired" for service. This flawed methodology has dictated FCC policy for years.
In recent years the FCC has paid a lot of lip service to better data collection, which has resulted in a few improvements -- such as raising the speed benchmark to 4 Mbps. Still, the FCC keeps much of the real data on competition from public viewing, and the data that is released tends to gloss over the fact that most consumers have the choice of just one or two providers. This latest report didn't sit well with consumer advocacy group Free Press
, who says the FCC still isn't adhering to promises made as part of the national broadband plan:
"The FCC continues its practice of releasing highly flawed and misleading analysis about the broadband marketplace that grossly overstates the level of broadband competition. The shortcomings in this report are inexcusable and suggest that Chairman Genachowski's commitment to run a 'data-driven' agency is thus far just an empty slogan.
In 2008, the Commission made major changes to its broadband data collection practices. The new data was intended to allow the agency to examine the relationship between market concentration and broadband quality, price and adoption. But instead, the FCC continues to fail to take advantage of this information, choosing to publish misleading analysis in the same mold as the widely criticized reports released under Chairman Michael Powell and Chairman Kevin Martin.
Of course if FCC releases data showing how the United States broadband market suffers from a significant lack of competition, then somebody might actually notice that the FCC's national broadband plan fails utterly to do anything about it