Category Archives: Broadband Census

BroadbandCensus.com Joins with One Web Day: Learn About Your Internet Options and Take the Census

By Drew Clark, Editor, BroadbandCensus.com

WASHINGTON, August 19 – BroadbandCensus.com is pleased to support One Web Day, and I am very happy to be an Ambassador for this effort.

Most Americans who have high-speed internet can’t imagine life without broadband. How could you connect to the Internet of today without it? In today’s world, broadband is as basic as running water and electricity. And yet the U.S. is falling behind globally.

As a technology reporter, I’ve been writing about the battles over broadband and the Internet for more than a decade here in Washington. Yet there is one fact about which nearly everyone seems to be in agreement: if America wants better broadband, America needs better broadband data.

That’s why I’ve recently started a new venture to collect this broadband data, and to make this data freely available for all on the Web at http://BroadbandCensus.com.

One Web Day presents an opportunity for all of us to take stock with the true state of broadband in this country. BroadbandCensus.com wants to work with each of you to help us “crowdsource” the data we need to get a better handle on availability, competition, speeds, prices, and quality of service of local broadband.

What is BroadbandCensus.com?

When an Internet user goes to the BroadbandCensus.com web site, he or she types in a ZIP code. By doing so, the consumer will find out how many broadband providers the FCC says are available. The consumer can compare that number to his or her own sense of the competitive landscape, as well as the names of the carriers published by BroadbandCensus.com.

The site then invites visitors to Take the Broadband Census! This is a short questionnaire, and it is followed by a free internet speed test. Each consumer that takes the census puts in their ZIP code, or their ZIP+4 code, selects their broadband carrier from a drop-down menu, and rates that company’s performance on a scale of one to five stars.

The consumer then has the opportunity to add their own comments about the carrier. They may then take a bandwidth speed test. Each of these steps adds data into BroadbandCensus.com. That means that the next visitor to the web site will be better informed about the availability, competition, speeds and customer service of their local broadband options. It also produces a free database of consumer data about more than 1,600 broadband carriers in the U.S.

How is BroadbandCensus.com Different?

There are other efforts out there to understand broadband data. The FCC requires every broadband carrier to provide information about the areas in the ZIP codes in which they offer service through something called the Form 477. The agency recently announced that it will now require that this data be collected by census tracts, which is a slightly smaller geographical unit. Unfortunately, the FCC refuses to share the information about WHO is providing service WHERE. That leaves it for me and you to piece together this puzzle through various sources of information on BroadbandCensus.com.

And there are other ventures out there, such as Connected Nation, Inc., which has teamed up with Bell and cable companies – and with the governments of Kentucky and other states – and which is mapping out statewide broadband availability.

BroadbandCensus.com seeks to identify the broadband carriers’ actual service areas. That way the carriers can be held accountable for the areas of town that they are serving, the speeds at which they are providing service, and – of course – the areas that they are not serving.

Not only is better broadband data important for policy-makers and for potential new market entrants, it is also vital for consumers. Particularly as carriers begin their efforts to meter out bandwidth in tiers, and to implement usage caps, the efforts of a consumer-focused service like BroadbandCensus.com are all the more critical.

Understanding Broadband Options on a State-by-State Basis

BraodbandCensus.com launched on January 31, 2008. We released the beta version of speed test (we use the open-source Network Diagnostic Tool of Internet2) soon afterwards, and have collected thousands of census results and speed queries.

Starting with a core group of supporters, including the Benton Foundation, the Network Policy Council of EDUCAUSE, Internet2, the Pew Internet & American Life Project and Virginia Tech’s eCorridors Program, and now the National Association of Telecommunications Officers and Advisors (NATOA), BroadbandCensus.com has sought attention and publicity through word of mouth. We want as many people as possible to visit and use the site.

Now, we are taking the next step by conducting a Broadband Census of the States. We have begun a series of state-by-state articles profiling the broadband policies, broadband build-out and broadband data in each of the United States and its territories. As we’ve strengthened our knowledge of and ties to individual states, we’re tapping into a whole news source of broadband information. For example, because of the data available from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, we’ve been able to identify each of the carriers offering service at the ZIP-code level in that state.

We will add new profiles to the collection between now and One Web Day. And on this day – September 22, 2008 – we plan to release the complete collection into the One Web Day ‘Time Capsule.’ Equally important, each of you will be able to add your research and knowledge about the state of broadband in the states through your comments and additions to each of these more than 50 profiles.

Using ‘One Web Week’ to Change the Debate over Broadband Data

The momentum that you have helped to create behind BroadbandCensus.com has put us at the center of the debate about internet data. We are building from this marvelous opportunity as we seek an open and public broadband census. On Monday, September 22, One Web Day will help draw further attention to these efforts. We aim to continue the effort throughout the week – until Friday, September 26 – and beyond.

Earlier this month we announced “Broadband Census for America,” a conference that will be held at the American Association for the Advancement of Science, at 1200 New York Avenue NW, Washington, DC, on September 26, from 8:30 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. More details about the conference, the program committee and pricing is available here.

“Broadband Census for America” will be sponsored by BroadbandCensus.com, Carnegie Mellon University, the University of Texas at Austin’s Robert S. Strauss Center and Virginia Tech’s eCorridors program. A member of the Embassy of Ireland has confirmed his participation as a keynote speaker. He will inform an American audience of academics, state officials and telecom policy advocates about how the Irish have done their broadband census. Hint: see http://broadband.gov.ie. We urge you to consider attending.

I hope you are wondering what you can do to help this effort. If you are, we’ve got three requests for you on our “Get Involved” page:

  • Take the Broadband Census and Speed Test
  • Grab a Button for Your Blog
  • Join one of BroadbandCensus.com’s Committees

Also, if you would like to blog about broadband, and about broadband data, on BroadbandCensus.com, please feel free to drop me an e-mail: drew at broadbandcensus.com. We’d be more than happy to include bloggers for BroadbandCensus.com!

We look forward to working with all of your in the run-up to One Web Week, and helping all of us to better understand the true state of broadband competition in our communities, our states, our country and our world.

URL: http://broadbandcensus.com/blog/?p=465 

Broadband Census in the States:

Broadband Census Resources:

‘Broadband Census for America’ Conference:

Announcing a Half-Day Conference About Universal Broadband Data on September 26, 2008

One Web Day:

See this post on the One Web Day web site (August 19, 2008)

OneWebDay

A Debate About Data Confidentiality and the Forthcoming ‘Broadband Census for America’

Blog Entries

By Drew Clark, Editor, BroadbandCensus.com

A recent post to Dave Farber’s [IP] list:

WASHINGTON, August 8 – I’d like to take a moment to respond to some of the issues raised by the recent e-mail of Brett Glass.

With respect to the issue data confidentiality, it’s important to separate out several issues here:

(1) The names of carriers and the locations in which they offer services, by ZIP code.

(2) The number of subscribers that carriers have in a particular ZIP code.

The Form 477 of the Federal Communications Commission requires carriers to submit both types of information to the FCC.

I agree that category (2) may well be confidential information. I do not think that category (1) can be considered confidential.

The web site that I run, http://BroadbandCensus.com, is an attempt to combine information about broadband from various sources. In addition to “crowdsourcing” data from internet users, we are combining public information from the FCC’s Form 477, publicly available information about carriers and where they offer services, as well as from states and localities. Since we launched BroadbandCensus.com in January 2008, We have had thousands of internet users tell us the names of their providers, where those providers are offering service, and they’ve taken our beta speed test.

It is important to note that Form 477 data released by the FCC does not include the names of the carriers. The FCC recently ordered carriers to begin to provide information on the census tract level (a unit slightly smaller than a ZIP code). However, unless the FCC changes its policy, consumers will still not be able to obtain carrier information from the agency.

Hence, the data we have from the FCC is extremely limited.

Our data directly from carriers is a little bit better. Since the launch of BroadbandCensus.com, I have reached out to associations of small carriers, and dozens of them have voluntarily provided information about the ZIP codes in which they offer service. Several of the major cable companies also make this information publicly available, although other large providers do not.

Who would benefit more from public disclosure about the locations, technology types, promised speeds and prices: small carriers or big carriers? I don’t know.

Brett clearly feels that small carriers would suffer. I know of others who disagree with him.

With regard to the conference on September 26, 2008, that is being sponsored by BroadbandCensus.com, Carnegie Mellon University, the University of Texas at Austin’s Robert S. Strauss Center, and the Virginia Tech eCorridors Program, we plan to make a list of our panel speakers available in the coming weeks. Although space on the program is tight, the program committee is open to including others.

The goal of the conference, as stated on http://broadbandcensus.com/blog/?p=331, is to “invite government officials, academic researchers and other key stakeholders to a half-day conference on collecting and sharing public data about high-speed internet access.”

With regard to issue of the Freedom of Information Act that Brett raises:

It is correct that an organization for which I previously worked — the Center for Public Integrity — filed a lawsuit seeking the disclosure of the Form 477 database. As the suit proceeded, the Center dropped its request for data in category (2), and instead sought the data in category (1).

More information about the Center’s lawsuit is available at http://projects.publicintegrity.org/telecom/report.aspx?aid=886

All of the major telecommunications carriers’ associations intervened or filed amicus briefs on behalf of the FCC in this matter. Judge Ellen Huvelle ruled against the Center in August 2007, and again in October 2007.

Meanwhile, the momentum behind collecting and mapping better broadband data continues unabated. Indeed, the FCC is undergoing a proceeding on this very question. I blogged about this at http://broadbandcensus.com/blog/?p=195, and BroadbandCensus.com filed comments in the FCC’s regulatory proceeding, at http://broadbandcensus.com/blog/?p=119

The gist of the comments is that the FCC should change its policy and publicly disclose the data in category (1). BroadbandCensus.com has not filed any FOIA requests or lawsuits on this matter.

If you want to get involved with BroadbandCensus.com, or with the “Broadband Census for America” Conference, please feel free to e-mail me at drew@broadbandcensus.com.

We want to make this discussion and debate as open and transparent as possible.

URL: http://broadbandcensus.com/blog/?p=352

Telecom and Transportation Should Be Focus of Infrastructure Investments, Says Think Tank

By Drew Clark, Editor, BroadbandCensus.com

WASHINGTON, July 28 – By combining better public information, market mechanisms and smarter systems of subsidization, the government can play a positive role in funding infrastructure investments in telecommunications, according to three reports released Friday by the Brookings Institution.

The papers, released on Friday at an event that also featured an address by Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine, are part of a Brookings Institution initiative promoting investments in infrastructure – both physical, transportation investments, as well as new ways to spur improvements in the telecommunications infrastructure.

“No economy improves with a declining infrastructure,” said Kaine, a Democrat. “Unless you make that high-tech investment easy by telecom access, you won’t get” improvements in your state’s economic condition, he said.

Brookings, a liberal-leaning think tank, released the reports as part of an initiative dubbed the “Hamilton Project.” The project seeks to put forward policy ideas that “embrac[e] a role for effective government in making needed public investments,” according to the think tank.

Read the complete story at BroadbandCensus.com 

CWA Wants Better Broadband Data, As Does Internet for Everyone

By Drew Clark, Editor, BroadbandCensus.com

WASHINGTON, July 17 – Communications Workers of America this past week teamed up with a group of telecommunications companies, cable operators and non-profit groups to push for Congress to pass broadband data legislation.

In a Friday letter and a Monday press release, the groups wrote “to express [their] strong support for Congressional action to promote greater availability and adoption of broadband high-speed Internet services.”

They want “a national policy” to encourage more broadband deployment, and they cite economic statistics about broadband’s potential.

And, as a first step, these companies and CWA want Congress to pass the Broadband Census of America Act, H.R. 3919, or the Broadband Data Improvement Act, S. 1492.

Curiously, last month another large coalition announced a similar campaign. They call themselves Internet for Everyone.

Continue reading “CWA Wants Better Broadband Data, As Does Internet for Everyone

Want Better Broadband in America? Take the Broadband Census!

Commentary

The following commentary appears in the current issue of Opastco Advocate, a monthly newsletter published by the Organization for the Promotion and Advancement of Small Telecommunications Companies. Reprinted by permission.

By Drew Clark, Executive Director, BroadbandCensus.com

Most Americans who have high-speed Internet can’t imagine life without broadband. How could you connect to the Internet of today without it? In today’s world, broadband is as basic as running water and electricity. And yet the U.S. is falling behind globally. As a technology reporter, I’ve been writing about the battles over broadband and the Internet for nearly a decade in Washington. Yet there is one fact about which nearly everyone seems to be in agreement: if America wants better broadband, America needs better broadband data.

That’s why I’ve recently started a new venture to collect this broadband data, and to make this data freely available for all on the Web, at http://BroadbandCensus.com.

The information and news that is available for free at BroadbandCensus.com is more important now than ever before. The FCC has just made important changes to how it will collect data from carriers. The agency may make even more significant changes in the near future. Public and private sector groups of all stripes are demanding, ever more loudly, that government take steps toward a national broadband policy. That cannot be done without solid information about broadband. Finally, many large carriers are beginning to implement plans to meter out bandwidth in tiers and with usage caps. This marketplace development makes the mission of an independent monitoring Website like BroadbandCensus.com even more critical.

BroadbandCensus.com Serves Consumers, Policymakers, and Carriers

BroadbandCensus.com is designed to help three constituencies: Internet consumers, policymakers, and broadband carriers focused on customer satisfaction. In the long term, we believe that the interests of carriers are aligned with those of their customers and their potential customers.

Internet users benefit by being able to measure and understand information about the availability, competition, speeds and prices of broadband within their areas. When an Internet user goes to the BroadbandCensus.com Website, he or she types in a ZIP code. By doing so, the consumer will find out how many broadband providers the FCC says are available. The consumer can compare that number to his or her own sense of the competitive landscape, as well as the names of the carriers published by BroadbandCensus.com.

The site then invites visitors to Take the Broadband Census! This is a short questionnaire, and it is followed by a free Internet speed test. Each consumer that takes the census puts in their ZIP code, or their ZIP+4 code, selects their broadband carrier from a drop-down menu, and rates that company’s performance on a scale of one to five stars.

The consumer then has the opportunity to add their own comments about the carrier. They may then take a bandwidth speed test. Each of these steps adds data into BroadbandCensus.com. That means that the next visitor to the Website will be better informed about the availability, competition, speeds and customer service of their local broadband options. It also produces a free database of consumer data about more than 1,600 broadband carriers in the U.S.

BroadbandCensus.com also aims to aid policymakers crafting sensible broadband policies based on solid research. We have a contract with the Pew Internet and American Life Project to contribute our information and research to their annual broadband report, and we are working with other broadband researchers around the country.

Consider just three hot-button broadband issues: the Universal Service Fund; whether carriers are engaged in blocking or degrading Internet traffic; and ensuring that all sections of the country – rural as well as inner-city – are digitally included in our broadband world. Better data about competition, speeds and prices are necessary to craft each of these policies. This is what we aim to provide, free of charge, to policymakers on the federal, state and local level, as well as to the public at large.

BroadbandCensus.com is made available under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial License. That means that the contents of the site are available, for free, for all to view, copy, redistribute and reuse provided that attribution is made to BroadbandCensus.com, and that such use is done for non-commercial purposes. This is more than just legalese. It means that government agencies and university researchers can benefit from our platform showcasing the best and most accurate broadband data publicly available. State, county and regional development agencies, for example, may republish our data through their own Websites so long as they attribute it to BroadbandCensus.com.

Putting Carrier-Level Information Into BroadbandCensus.com

BroadbandCensus.com aims to collect information from the bottom up. This helps to keep the Internet consumer at the center of the broadband experience. But carriers are obviously integral to this process. We seek to build upon the relationships that we have with dozens of carriers. We also want to form new relationships with hundreds more carriers, such as yourselves. Rural carriers and other special providers of broadband are natural candidates to work with BroadbandCensus.com. We want to build constructive ties with all of you.

The data within BroadbandCensus.com is aggregated from at least four sources: (1) “bottom-up” data from consumers; (2) publicly available information about which providers offer broadband service within each ZIP code; (3) FCC data about the number of broadband providers in each ZIP code; and (4) local broadband information collected and published by state and county regulators.

We also seek information about the availability, prices and speeds that are offered by OPASTCO’s member carriers. Only individuals can make service ratings and measure actual Internet speeds, of course. But carriers are far more likely to have the most up-to-date information about the ZIP codes, and the ZIP+4 codes, in which they offer service. Carriers are also better suited to provide pricing data and information about the speed tiers that they offer to their consumers.

Would each of you be willing to provide us with information about the areas that you serve, the speeds at which you offer services, and the prices at which you sell those services?

Some carriers may resist the notion that they should provide information about where they offer service, let alone the prices at which they do so, on a public Website. Doing so, they believe, would simply aid their competitors. This kind of thinking isn’t uncommon in the business world today. But it is at odds with the notion of radical transparency being followed by many of the most successful technology and communications companies.

The April 2007 issue of Wired magazine cast a spotlight on this development. “You can’t hide anything anymore,” said Don Tapscott, co-author of The Naked Corporation, about corporate openness, as well as Wikinomics, in the piece. “Trying to hide something illicit – trying to hide anything, really – is an unwise gamble,” said Clive Thompson, author of the article entitled “The See-Through CEO.” “Transparency is a judo move,” Thompson continued. “Your customers are going to poke around in your business anyway…so why not make it work for you by turning everyone into a partner in the process and inviting them to do so?”

BroadbandCensus.com agrees. Consumers are going to find out where you offer service. Indeed, they must know in order to get service! They will also find out whether or not you deliver on your promised speeds, and whether or not other customers out there are satisfied or dissatisfied. The Internet simply provides all of these individuals with the wherewithall – the virtual gathering space, if you will – to come together and talk about you. Transparency about broadband availability, competition, speeds and prices is the raison d’être for BroadbandCensus.com. But it doesn’t benefit anyone to close the doors of communication with you, the telecom carriers.

Take the issue of broadband pricing. Many different broadband service providers offer different bundles and pricing plans for different speeds and service options. This creates a myriad of choices involving voice and video (with many different channel options and prices), as well as additional services, such as wireless data, home security and maintenance services, etc. This complicated patchwork of options is one reason that BroadbandCensus.com has held off, for now, with systematically collecting “bottom up” data about broadband prices. Consumers are the best gauge of customer service – but they may not remember all of the services they take. They also may not accurately report the prices for the packages that they buy.

It would be better to get this pricing and bundle options information directly from carriers. We have built a back-end interface on BroadbandCensus.com that allows carriers who wish to participate the ability to upload information about locations, prices and offered speeds. We are still working on the best way to display prices within a particular ZIP code or ZIP+4 code. We are more than open to your suggestions on this matter.

Participation in the Broadband Census is completely optional. Carriers that choose not to participate are identified, on our Website, as “[Particular carrier] does not provide the Broadband Census with local Internet information.” When carriers do participate, that label does not appear.

Understanding the Speed Test

BroadbandCensus.com was officially launched on Jan. 31, 2008, and we launched the beta version of our speed test on Feb. 21, 2008. For our beta speed test, we use NDT, or the Network Diagnostic Tool, an open-source speed test under active development by the research consortium Internet2. We have assembled thousands of speed tests, census entries and comments from everyday Internet uses – all of which are freely accessible at BroadbandCensus.com. We are well aware of the great diversity of results obtained through our beta speed test. We understand that many variables, including network configuration, Internet congestion, and customer equipment, affect the actual speed test results. We strive to be as transparent as possible about the technology that we are using to conduct our speed tests, and to help publicize the methodology employed by our version of the NDT speed test.

Policy Agenda for a Broadband Census

BroadbandCensus.com builds on the momentum behind federal, state and local efforts to collect more detailed information about broadband. Consider that Rep. Ed Markey, (D-Mass.), Chairman of the House Subcommittee on Telecommunications and the Internet, has introduced legislation that would provide the public with better broadband information. Markey’s Broadband Census of America Act, H.R. 3919, has passed the House of Representatives and is still before the Senate.

In addition to providing money for state initiatives to map out broadband, the Broadband Census of America Act calls for the National Telecommunications and Information Administration to create a publicly available map of broadband deployment. The map would feature not only broadband availability, but also “each commercial provider or public provider of broadband service capability.”

Sen. Richard Durbin, (D-Ill.) has introduced S. 1190, the “Connect the Nation Act.” Durbin’s bill would authorize $40 million a year, for five years, for state efforts to map out broadband inventory on the census block level. Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Daniel Inouye, (D-Hawaii) has introduced S. 1492, the Broadband Data Improvement Act, which takes a similar approach. The goal, stated in the identical language of both bills, is to “identify and track the availability and adoption of broadband services within each state.” Neither of these bills has cleared the chamber.

Additionally, the broadband data bills have been inspired by a growing movement in the states to map out broadband availability within their territories. This effort began with Connect Kentucky, a non-profit initiative designed to compile statistics about regional broadband deployment. In partnership with the regional Bell operating companies and cable operators, Connect Kentucky identified gaps in coverage and underserved areas. It is now replicating its efforts in Ohio, Tennessee, West Virginia and South Carolina. Other groups unconnected to Connect Kentucky are engaged in similar mapping efforts, including the California Broadband Task Force and Massachusetts Broadband Initiative.

Now the FCC will be drilling into broadband availability information in greater detail. On June 12, the agency released an order requiring broadband providers to report the number of subscribers they have, not only in each ZIP code (as has been required since 2000), but also in each Census tract.

This is a welcome development. We applaud those who have pushed the FCC to collect more granular data. As soon as the agency collects, and then releases, information about broadband availability within a particular Census tract, we will immediately include this additional information in BroadbandCensus.com. ZIP codes are larger than Census tracts, and Census tracts are larger than ZIP+4 codes. While BroadbandCensus.com currently displays data at the ZIP code level, in the future we will display data at the ZIP+4 code level – and that will also include the Census tract level. Knowing where broadband is and is not available is indeed the first step toward making sure that broadband truly is accessible to all Americans.

But availability alone doesn’t go far enough. The next steps include understanding broadband competition, broadband speeds and broadband prices. On this score, BroadbandCensus.com has criticized the FCC’s order as inadequate to help consumers know and understand their broadband options. Because the agency continues to exclude carrier information from the public data that it releases, Internet consumers are not likely to benefit from the more granular information collection. The FCC appears to acknowledge this limitation. The order included a “further notice” section in which the agency seeks comments on whether, and how, it should conduct information about delivered speeds and prices.

Conclusion

Fleshing out this complete picture – broadband availability, competition, speeds, prices and customer service – is the long-term goal of BroadbandCensus.com. By including the names of carriers, and by allowing consumers to rate their service quality, BroadbandCensus.com will enable Internet users to make true headto- head comparisons. We believe that these types of comparisons are an essential part of understanding connectedness, fostering a competitive Internet, and in building a national broadband strategy for America. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me at drew at broadbandcensus.com.

URL: http://broadbandcensus.com/blog/?p=80 

Articles Referenced in this Article:

Broadband Internet Adoption Stalls, Regresses for Poor, Says Pew Report

By Drew Clark, Editor, BroadbandCensus.com

WASHINGTON, July 2 – Broadband growth in the United States has effectively stalled over the past five months, a possible victim of the economic slowdown, according to a report released Wednesday by the Pew Internet & American Life Project.

Some 55 percent of all adult Americans now have a high-speed internet connection, or a broadband connection, in their home, according to the report, “Home Broadband Adoption 2008.”

That number compares with 47 percent of adult Americans with broadband in early 2007, and 54 percent in December 2007. Hence broadband growth over the previous 12 or 13 months has dramatically tapered off.

The growth rate in broadband adoption from 2007 to 2008 was 17 percent. That compares favorably to the 12 percent growth recorded in the 2006 to 2007 timeframe, according to Pew’s annual studies in 2007 and 2008.

Yet for poor Americans, as well as African Americans, broadband adoption was slow or negative.

Among adults living in households with annual incomes of less than $20,000 annually, broadband adoption has actually regressed: the percentage dropped from 28 percent in March 2007 to 25 percent in April/May 2008, said the report.

Among African Americans, home broadband adoption stood at 43 percent in May 2008, versus 40 percent the previous year.

“The flat growth in home high-speed adoption for low-income Americans suggests that tightening household budges may be affecting people’s choice of connection speed at home,” said John Horrigan, associate director of research at the Pew Internet & American Life Project and author of the report.

“Broadband is more costly on a monthly basis than dial-up, and some lower income Americans may be unwilling to take on another expense,” said Horrigan.

Pew’s annual report has become the respected benchmark for understanding broadband adoption within the United States.

Looking over the past year, three groups did experience relatively strong growth in broadband adoption from 2007 to 2008:

  • Older Americans: Those aged 50 and above experienced a 26 percent growth rate in broadband from 2007 to 2008.
  • Lower-middle income Americans: Those with household incomes between $20,000 and $40,000 annually saw broadband penetration grow by 24 percent over the same period.
  • Rural Americans: Among those who live in rural areas, 38 percent have broadband at home now, versus 31 percent a year ago, or a growth rate of 23 percent over the same period.

The Pew report identifies a number of other trends: including the fact that broadband prices have only dropped four percent over the past two-and-a-half years, that affordability (or the lack thereof) is having an impact on broadband adoption, and that wireless technologies may be poised to play a larger role in making broadband more widely available in the home.

Broadband users reported paying $34.50 a month for high-speed internet services in April 2008, versus $36 a month in December 2005 — a four percent decline. Cable modem users reported paying an average of $37 a month (versus $41 in 2005), while Digital Subscriber Line (DSL) users reported paying $31.50 a month (versus $32 in 2005).

Dial-up users, who now constitute just 10 percent of American adults who go online, now cite price as the key reason for why they do not subscribe to broadband.

Asked, “What would it take to get you to switch to broadband?”, dial-up users said:

35% The prices has to come down/be more affordable/cheaper
19% Nothing will convince me to get broadband
16% Don’t know
11% Other
10% It would have to become available where I live
4% When my cable/telephone company offers it where I live
4% Refused
2% Someone else will pay for it
2% If it was free
0% When my children get older

Note: Total may exceed 100% due to multiple responses.

Source: Q23 in the Spring Tracking Survey 2008 (conducted April 8-May 11, 2008), Princeton Survey Research Associates International) for Pew Internet & American Life Project.

The Pew report also found that fixed wireless services have increased their role in the home broadband marketplace, from next to nothing in 2002 to about 12 percent of home broadband connections. DSL maintains an edge in the marketplace, with 46 percent of broadband users subscribing, versus 39 percent for cable modem service. And the number of fiber optic users finally nudged above negligible, with 2 percent of home users subscribing.

Reports and Documents Referenced in this Article:

Editor’s Note:

BroadbandCensus.com continues to work with the Pew Internet & American Life Project on a report about the connection speeds whereby Americans access the Internet. This report, to be released later this summer, will include the first set of preliminary data about internet speeds obtained by BroadbandCensus.com.

Launched in January 2008, BroadbandCensus.com began running a beta version of an internet speed test on February 21. We invite you to take the Broadband Census and compare your internet speed with those of others.

The Pew Internet & American Life Project has been a supporter of BroadbandCensus.com, and has contracted with BroadbandCensus.com to gather information about users’ broadband experiences and to incorporate those findings into a Pew report on broadband.

-Drew Clark, Editor, BroadbandCensus.com

URL: http://broadbandcensus.com/blog/?p=69

CWA Blog Claims Credit for FCC Data Order, But Ignores Local Company Data

By Drew Clark, Editor, BroadbandCensus.com

Over at the Communications Workers of America’s blog, Speed Matters, the union claims credit for the Federal Communications Commission’s recent order requiring broadband companies to provide the FCC with more information, including data about availability by Census tract.

The blog notes:

The CWA Speed Matters campaign can claim another victory – this time at the FCC. As part of our Speed Matters campaign, CWA called on the FCC to increase its definition of “high speed” – a definition that had not changed for nine years — and to improve its broadband data collection.

Well, it is possible that the FCC’s broadband data collection will be improved. But the public is not likely to benefit from any improvements.

The blog post makes no mention of the fact that the FCC will continue to shield the names of the broadband providers that offer service in a particular ZIP code or Census tract. BroadbandCensus.com criticized the FCC for its failure to change this policy. The current policy limits consumers’ and citizens’ ability to benefit from local broadband information.

Also, with regards to speeds, the CWA post appears to misstate what the FCC required.

It is correct that, as part of order issued on June 13 (nearly three months after it was voted on the agency’s five commissioners), the FCC is requiring broadband providers to now tell the agency the speeds at which they offer service, grouped into eight separate speed tiers.

The agency will continue to collect data about services offered at 200 kilobits per second (Kbps). Only the second tier, or services offered at greater than 768 Kbps, will count as “broadband” under the new definition. Here are the speed tiers:

1. 200 Kbps – 768 Kbps
2. 768 Kbps – 1.5 Mbps
3. 1.5 Mbps – 3 Mbps
4. 3 Mbps – 6 Mbps
5. 6 Mbps – 10 Mbps
6. 10 Mbps – 25 Mbps
7. 25 Mbps – 100 Mbps
8. Greater than 100 Mbps

But CWA’s blog goes further, stating that “the FCC did adopt other CWA recommendations – especially to collect data on upstream and downstream speeds.”

The FCC order does not require either the carriers or the engage to engage in speed tests about actual broadband performance. It only requires that carriers say what they currently offer. The FCC document has a “further notice” section, in which the agency asks for comments on whether, and how, it should conduct information about “delivered speed[s].”

CWA also touts various pieces legislation in Congress that would go beyond the FCC order: the Broadband Data Improvement Act, S. 1492, introduced by Sen. Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, and the Broadband Census of America Act, H.R. 3919, introduced by Rep. Ed Markey, D-Mass.

Unlike AT&T’s Jim Cicconi, who said on June 13 that the company believes the FCC’s order has accomplished what the bills set out to achieve (while insisting that the company has no problem with the bills), CWA pushes these bills because they “would make funds available to states to collect broadband data.”

An important difference between the two bills, however, is that addition to providing money for state initiatives to map out broadband, the Broadband Census of America Act, H.R. 3919, also calls for the National Telecommunications and Information Administration to create a publicly-available map of broadband deployment. The map would feature not only broadband availability, but also “each commercial provider or public provider of broadband service capability.”

BroadbandCensus.com seeks to provide the public with information about local broadband availability, competition, speeds and prices. In order to make this information as useful to the public as possible, BroadbandCensus.com believes that the names of the companies that provide broadband – and the speeds and prices at which they actually deliver service – must also be made available as part of any serious effort to map out the state of broadband in America.

URL: http://broadbandcensus.com/blog/?p=57

Will Bandwidth Demands ‘Break’ the Internet? Yea or Nay, We Need Independent Monitoring

June 22 – The subject of tiered access to high-speed internet services has been much in the news, with the announcements by Time Warner Cable, and also Cox Communications, that they would roll out tiered services.Well, the news out of NXTcomm08, the telecommunications industry conference last week in Las Vegas, only seems to underscore the prospect that greater control by network providers is on the horizon. According to a survey by Tellabs and research firm IDC, telecommunications professionals are split down the middle on whether increasing bandwidth demands are likely to “break” the Internet.

According to the survey, half of respondents said bandwidth demands would “break” the Internet.

Of greater interest, in my opinion:

Of the 80% who identified a way to deal with internet congestion, 32% think providers address spikes in traffic by prioritizing via packet inspection, while 24% believe that spikes are better handled by charging more for excess bandwidth.

My friend Chris Parente blogged about this development on Saturday, and he was kind enough to ask for my reaction. This is what I said:

Whether or not new bandwidth demands on the Internet cause carriers to offer tiered pricing or to throttle particular applications or protocols, independent monitoring will be crucial. The core purpose of BroadbandCensus.com is to provide bandwidth consumers, both individuals and businesses, with a place to find local information about broadband availability, competition, speeds, prices and quality of service.

-Drew Clark, Editor, BroadbandCensus.com

URL: http://broadbandcensus.com/blog/?p=49

FCC Releases Broadband Data Order For Census-Tract Data

By Drew Clark, Editor, BroadbandCensus.com

WASHINGTON, June 15 – In an effort to increase the data that the Federal Communications Commission has available as it designs broadband policies, on Thursday the FCC ordered broadband providers to provide the agency with more detailed information.

For the past eight years, broadband providers had to provide the FCC with semi-annual information about the number of subscribers that they have in each ZIP code. Now, they will need to provide the number of subscribers in each Census tract, too.

In a last-minute change sought by AT&T and the non-profit group Free Press, the FCC decided to also require broadband carriers to separate out the number of business from residential customers.

Additionally, under a new form created by the broadband data order, carriers must also say how many of their subscribers within each Census tract fit into each of eight separate speed tiers.

The tiers are as follows:

(1) greater than 200 kbps but less than 768 kbps; (2) equal to or greater than 768 kbps but less than 1.5 mbps; (3) equal to or greater than 1.5 mbps but less than 3.0 mbps; (4) equal to or greater than 3.0 mbps but less than 6.0 mbps, (5) equal to or greater than 6.0 mbps but less than 10.0 mbps; (6) equal to or greater than 10.0 mbps but less than 25.0 mbps; (7) equal to or greater than 25.0 mbps but less than 100.0 mbps; and (8) equal to or greater than 100 mbps.

Data about the numbers of subscribers in each ZIP code is kept by the agency and has not been released to the public. Additionally, the FCC does not release the names of which carriers offer broadband service within a particular ZIP code.

The orders released by the FCC on Thursday make no changes to existing rules regarding the confidentiality of this data.

However, the broadband data order does initiate a new proceeding whereby the FCC will consider how it should voluntarily collect additional broadband data, including data about customer Internet speeds. The agency says it is doing this so that it may propose “a national broadband availability mapping program.” It says it wants to consider confidentially rules for such additional data.

The FCC has been under growing pressure for years to collect more comprehensive information about broadband. A variety of public and private initiatives have been launched seeking access to more granular broadband data, including efforts by the California Broadband Task Force, ConnectKentucky, and this publication, BroadbandCensus.com.

Additionally, a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit, filed by the Center for Public Integrity, sought the names of broadband providers offering service within each ZIP code. A federal district court judge denied the effort in October 2007.

And at least three pieces of federal legislation seek better data from the FCC and other communications agencies: the “Broadband Census of America Act,” H.R. 3919, introduced by Ed Markey, D-Mass., Chairman of the House Subcommittee on Telecommunications and the Internet, the “Connect the Nation Act,” S. 1190, by Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., and the “Broadband Data Improvement Act,” S. 1492, by Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii. Markey’s bill has passed the House of Representatives; neither of the Senate measures has passed the chamber.

The broadband order had been pending nearly three months at the communications agency. It was relased together with a separate order modifying its original one. The FCC voted to enhance the reporting details on March 19, but hadn’t required broadband carriers to separate out the number of business from residential customers.

FCC Democratic Commissioners Michael Copps and Jonathan Adelstein applauded the change to separate out business and residential reporting.

“Without this fundamental change, the usefulness of the improvements that we made in March would have been severely compromised,” Adelstein said in a Thursday statement released with the revised order. “By now distinguishing between residential and business customers at a more granular level, we will be much better positioned to understand the factors that affect broadband adoption,” he said.

URL for this article: http://broadbandcensus.com/blog/?p=35

Organizations and Topics Mentioned in this Article:

Editor’s Note:

BroadbandCensus.com has been closely following the data collection issue. We will issue a statement reacting to the FCC’s order later today.

-Drew Clark, Editor, BroadbandCensus.com