Here’s A Map Of States That Had To Map U.S. Broadband Due To Federal Corruption And Incompetence

from the can't-fix-a-problem-you-can't-measure dept

We’ve noted repeatedly that despite a steady stream of breathless rhetoric about America’s “dedication to bridging the digital divide,” U.S. government leaders still don’t actually know where broadband is or isn’t available. It only takes a few minutes perusing the FCC’s $350 million broadband map to realize government data completely hallucinates both speeds and competitors, and ignores a major metric: price.

This is all kind of a problem when the federal government just announced it would be spending $42 billion on expanding broadband access in a nation where 20-40 million Americans still lack access, and another 83 million live under a monopoly.

To counter the mapping problem, a growing roster of states have taken to mapping broadband access themselves (the ones with funding that actually care about things like monopolies and broadband access, anyway). The Institute for Local Self Reliance has crafted a map that tries to document which states are building their own broadband maps in the face of federal dysfunction.

The map showcases which states are trying to map broadband more accurately, then links you to individual state mapping efforts (here is California) for example. The group is very clear how idiotic it is that states have had to do all this heavy lifting despite millions having already been by federal policymakers:

Since the year 2000, Internet Service Providers (ISPs) have supplied data (e.g., where they offer service, the technology used to offer service, and the access speeds advertised to customers) to the FCC via Form 477 and is then displayed in an interactive, nationwide map. This map has long had little correlation to the reality on the ground, and given the refusal of governments to collect pricing data, the challenges of predicting wireless propagation, and the lack of reliability data, there is little reason to believe maps will anytime soon accurately represent what service residents and local businesses have available.

The FCC only in the last year or two finally started fixing its shitty mapping after Congress demanded it as part of the Broadband DATA Act. It demands the FCC use more crowdsourced data, do a better job confirming data delivered by ISPs (which have a vested interest in downplaying the problem), and utilize better methodology (the FCC long declared an entire census block “served” with broadband if an ISP claimed it could provide broadband to just one home in that census block).

But the improvements still aren’t expected to be completed until early next year at the earliest, and the $42 billion in infrastructure broadband funds are rolling out now.

Shoddy broadband mapping has generally been a good thing for regional U.S. telecom monopolies, which not only have been allowed to obscure competition gaps (and the high prices and poor service that result), but hoover up an endless gravy train of subsidies and tax breaks for networks that…mysteriously…always wind up half deployed. It’s why they’ve spent years fighting efforts at better maps.

So while a lot of the $42 billion we’re about to spend on broadband will very much do some good, a lot of it is going to get funneled right into the back pocket of telecom monopolies. Thanks, once again, to the fact that we don’t have an accurate picture of the problem we’re trying to fix.

In short, 30 years of U.S. telecom policy has been built on a lie, and we’ve only just in the last few years decided to start actually doing something about it.

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Comments on “Here’s A Map Of States That Had To Map U.S. Broadband Due To Federal Corruption And Incompetence”

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ke9tv (profile) says:

New York is dark green on the map?

I see that New York scores high, but… they tried to revoke Charter Spectrum’s license a few years ago (basically for bald-faced lying to the Public Service Commission). They eventually reached a settlement because it was clear Charter wasn’t going to budge, and New York would hurt its economy worse if Charter simply cut off all the customers and left the state with the network in disarray. The settlement was large in absolute terms, but a pittance compared with the amounts by which customers and the state were defrauded.

Charter is still in the state, and is still lying to the regulators. In the meantime, workers for Charter, who have been on strike for four years, are working on building community broadband in NY City.

Where I live (suburb of Albany), my choices are Charter and Verizon. Verizon no longer has a working copper pair to my house. I kissed them good-bye after they told me that I’d have to pay thousands of dollars to get DSL service repaired (or even get my POTS line working again). Charter is operating over an aging cable plant, has frequent outages and weak-signal problems. And this isn’t out in the boonies – this is in an affluent suburban neighbourhood well within commuting range of the state capital. Verizon lies, too – and gets away with it. My house is advertised to have Verizon fiber available. The nearest fiber is actually over at the other end of the township, but as long as even one household in the town has it, they get to tell the regulators that the town is served (and advertise the service to town residents, who actually can’t get it).

But any real attempt to hold Charter responsible is virtually certain to result in a widespread and long-duration network failure, because Charter has informally indicated that it’s willing to pull out of the state entirely without any sort of orderly transition plan. With ISPs having that kind of stranglehold over the state’s economy, it’s going to be damn near impossible for any politician to buck them.

Charter has paid a quarter-billion dollars in fines since 2000. They’re just part of the cost of doing business.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Read the headline again:

Here’s A Map Of States That Had To Map U.S. Broadband Due To Federal Corruption And Incompetence

So the map shown isn’t a data map or a broadband map, it’s a map showing which states had to map broadband provision due to the Federal government doing such a bang up job. The shading is based on how complete the states’ maps of the broadband provision within them was.

Liza Levy says:

Broadband mapping

Broadband exists near us in Kentucky, but ends around 1/2 mile away. For years Spectrum has been trying to get us to sign up, then saying “Oops! No coverage at your address” when we try. Yesterday, they finally offered us access. All we would need would be permission from neighbors to run a line, and to pay $22,000 (for poles) or $36,000 (buried) for them to run coaxial cable (not fiber optic) to our house. We didn’t even ask what our monthly charge would be. But I guess now they can claim that we are served, even if they didn’t do so before.

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