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.