FCC Finally Admits Its Broadband Penetration Numbers Are 'Stunningly Meaningless'

from the after-releasing-its-latest-report dept

For years, the FCC has been publishing numbers about broadband penetration in the US that were clearly bogus. They considered anything above 200kbps as broadband and did zip-code level comparisons. Thus, if one house in a zip code had access to broadband from a certain provider, the FCC assumed that every house in that zip code had access to broadband. As someone who lives in the heart of Silicon Valley and could not get DSL above 128k until a few months ago, I can point out how inaccurate that claim is. DSL is such a local technology that judging it on a zip-code-wide system is bound to be woefully inaccurate, even in heavily populated areas. Despite having the government condemn these bogus stats over and over again, the FCC kept releasing them… and it’s done so again (pdf).

However, the good news is that it’s finally admitting that its own numbers are bogus and changing the way it calculates broadband penetration. Why they’re doing so right after releasing the latest report makes little sense — but the FCC isn’t known as being the most logically run organizations. In fact, it’s so ridiculous to release bogus numbers after admitting that they’re bogus, that two of the FCC’s commissioners voted against releasing the report at all, with one calling it “stunningly meaningless.”

The new methodology will consider 768kbps the cutoff for considering a connection as “broadband.” It will also look at both up and downstream speeds, rather than just downstream. Finally, and most importantly, it will stop using the zip code system for determining penetration, but will require ISPs to report subscribers at the census-block level, which is much more fine-grained. This would present a much more accurate picture, so expect to hear ISPs complaining about the new methodology in 3… 2… 1….

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Companies: fcc

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Comments on “FCC Finally Admits Its Broadband Penetration Numbers Are 'Stunningly Meaningless'”

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SomeGuy says:

Re: Re: Re:

Following the Methodology link in the article, there’s a paragraph with the headliner of “Upload and download speeds will have to be reported in a more specific way.” The paragraph itself just talked about how there will be 5 “tiers” of internet access now instead of just 2, and it doesn’t break out how Upload and Download sppeds are to be considered, but in the breakout of the tiers, the one marked as “basic broadband” is listed as 768Kbps to 1.5Mbps. Like I said, it doesn’t come out and say anything, but I’d take it as at least some suggestion that 768kb/s refers to upload. As you said, this WOULD cut out many current broadband services, which is why I think it’s interesting (though admittedly not very likely).

?Saygin says:

Re: Re: Re:

I actually think that’s part of the larger point. The U.S. service providers’ offerings barely are acceptable when compared to the rest of the world. If 90% of them are cut out of the picture, so be it.

However, I think the 768 will be at least one way. The major change is that the FCC is now looking at two-way traffic, rather than just download speeds.

rawwhide says:

actual speeds

“They(FCC) considered anything above 200kbps as broadband and did zip-code level comparisons.” This is download. The new speed talked about of 768kbps is also download. Before the changes anything over 200kbps download was considered broadband. The most misleading of all though was the fact that the FCC counted all of a zip code as having broadband coverage, even if only one person in that zip had a speed over 200kbps.

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