Friends Don't Let Friends Use FCC Broadband Competition Data

from the amen dept

For many years, we've been among those (helped along by the usually excellent GAO) pointing out that the FCC's "broadband competition" stats were totally bogus. They relied on a rather bizarre way of counting competition. First, if a single household in an entire zipcode got broadband (er, actually not really broadband, but we'll get to that), then everyone in that zip code was counted. On top of that, the definition of broadband was ridiculously low. This has been known for years, and the FCC kept putting out the same bogus stats every years -- sometimes even admitting that it knew the stats were bogus, but it didn't have anything better. More recently, to its credit, the FCC is trying to get better about both how it defines broadband and how it counts things -- but that's just opened up opportunities for the telcos to simply tell the government what sort of coverage they offer, without having to reveal any actual data.

But, still, with the bogus FCC data out there, many folks are trying to claim that there's robust competition in broadband in the US. Thankfully, Julian Sanchez is pointing out that friends shouldn't let friends use FCC broadband data to discuss competition, and highlights the ridiculousness of the claim that 88% of zip codes have "four or more" broadband providers. It's even worse than Julian notes. While he points out that in many cases, some of the providers in question are mobile broadband providers offering up pokey EVDO connections, he neglects to mention that most of these connections cost a ton and come with ridiculously low usage caps -- such that they're not really broadband offerings at all. In fact, most 3G broadband data offerings have explicit limits in their contracts saying they cannot be used as primary broadband connections. But, it doesn't stop the same lobbyists who happen to be paid by the same telcos who make these policies from claiming that there's robust broadband competition.

Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1. identicon
    Como, Oct 12th, 2009 @ 10:29pm

    Choices, Oh the choices.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2. identicon
    Como, Oct 12th, 2009 @ 10:36pm

    Choices, Oh the choices.

    By the way the broadband availability is currently set up I would have 9 connections available at my house. But lets do the math.

    9 Choices -7(Wireless carriers) -1 (DSL Carrier,Too far from CO)=1 option.

    And they call my community well served with many choices.

    The way the definitions of "broadband" are set up now is ridiculous.

    Lets hope the FCC puts the ISPs in their place.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3. identicon
    ReallyEvilCanine, Oct 12th, 2009 @ 11:08pm


    Compared to Japan and Korea we feel cheated here, but my carrier here in Germany offers service from 18Mb/1Mb (€34/month) down to 6Mb/512Kb (€30/mo) including cheap-ass phone service. You simply can't get the crap speeds that the US has to settle for over here. The US carriers all rent-seek and price-fix through their oligarchies and monopolies, and they'll keep doing it until you stop putting up with it.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4. identicon
    Luci, Oct 13th, 2009 @ 12:00am

    Re: Broadband? HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!

    My basic connection is 8Mbps ($45/mth), and I can get up to 25Mbps ($55/mth). So, you know, it isn't all US carriers. My carrier is Cablesystem, so it isn't just a little mom and pop company.

    Keep laughing, hambone.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5. identicon
    Rennie, Oct 13th, 2009 @ 2:00am

    FTC Disclosure

    "...But, it doesn't stop the same lobbyists who happen to be paid by the same telcos who make these policies from claiming that there's robust broadband competition."

    Arn't these "lobbyists" now bound by disclosure rules, and therefore be exposed as being paid to come up with drivel?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6. icon
    kirillian (profile), Oct 13th, 2009 @ 8:49am

    Re: Re: Broadband? HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!

    Yes, but...SOME of us here in the US are stuck with the single choice or duopoly that is in place. We are the ones who spend $40 a month for a 1.5Mbps cable connection that drops off the face of the planet during any sort of busy time (think that I would use it).

    It's not always even about speed. Mostly...I just want to be able to use my connection.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7. identicon
    Colonel Panik, Oct 13th, 2009 @ 9:06am

    If there, why not everywhere?

    Lafayette, Louisiana
    Municipal run Fiber to the Home.
    50 down and 50 up = approx $60/month

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 13th, 2009 @ 9:07am

    Americans foolishly choose to live in the suburbs, and then expect to get services and coverage equal to that of the most densely populated cities in the world.

    Don't blame the carriers if you choose to live in the woods, or in some flat run for ever burb. You chose your home, live with it.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 13th, 2009 @ 9:26am

    I live in a fairly populated non-suburb city called New York City and we have eactly 2 choices that is not EVDO or 3G: Roadrunner (10mbit max,

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10. identicon
    micmac, Oct 13th, 2009 @ 12:46pm


    kirillian is way too generous. Broadband, such as it is, is almost everywhere in the US a two player game, at most. In Denver we have two real choices. Cable and DSL. Cell Phone connections don't count unless you have an unlimited budget.

    My daughter, who lives 4 miles from a paved road in the Ozarks, has only DSL, but pays only about half what we get charged.

    Think about it: DSL in the remote woods.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 13th, 2009 @ 1:20pm

    I live just over 3.5 miles from one, 6.5 from another. Both towns have internet through both cable and DSL. The best broadband connection I can get(not that I would call it broadband, but centurytel does), is 512k/128k DSL. Of course this doesn't include the ever popular satellite internet connection that costs approx $400 for the equipment and another $60-$80/month for service. So while I will admit that I live "out in the country", I'm not so far out that I shouldn't be able to get significantly higher speed access.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 14th, 2009 @ 7:13am


    We have a LOT more land than Europe. So of course more people can choose to live with a yard and private pool and stuff. Hate us for our quest for luxury! Hate us for our easy going lives!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 14th, 2009 @ 7:15am

    DSL is NOT broadband. The bandwidth you get from it is minuscule. You can't run multiple computers on the internet or even a download and surf the net without being severely hamstrung.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14. icon
    JKM (profile), Dec 19th, 2010 @ 9:07pm

    Unrealistic data

    That FCC data is useless. The info about an area being shown as covered if one person in that Zip Code has service is accurate as to how the data is compiled.

    And yes, before some entitled person (one who thinks they are entitled to an unlimited usage 50/50 Mbps connection for $29.95)speaks up and says I chose to live in the country, so I don't deserve Internet, you are partially right. I did choose to live in the country so I did not have to be around people like you who are entitled to a 50/50 but don't think I deserve a 2/512 connection because my address is rural.

    Now that's out of the way. And it is true, I would be most satisfied to have a 2/512 connection.

    However, the story is about how the FCC compiles data, so back to that. Their data says I have 7 options. I live 30 miles from the third largest city (150,000) in my state. I live about 10 miles from 2 towns (about 1200/5000) that both have DSL and cable. I live 8 miles from a town (600) that has DSL. I live 2 miles from a township (250) that also has DSL. When my cell carrier moved to 3G it pretty much broke my cell phone service - voice calls. My only option is dial-up and satellite.

    Now remember this post is not about me not having a decent connection. This post is about how horribly skewed the facts are about broadband Internet penetration.

    My lack of service is another story and most will say it is less important than the masses having FTTP. They will say that in spite of the fact that some research will prove that mean monthly Internet usage is 2 -5 GB and average monthly Internet usage is 6 - 20 GB. It is hard to believe since every single comment you see runs down ISPs because they don't give away 50/50 connections.

    If you are smart enough to read between the lines you will figure out that more than 90% of consumers are happy with the speeds and usage limits provided by their ISPs. The fact is 10% of the people are doing more than 50% of the complaining. If you research bandwidth usage you will find an eerie similarity. That same 10% are using about 50% of the ISPs bandwidth.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

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