Much Of The Broadband Growth Ajit Pai Credits To Killing Net Neutrality Was Actually Due To A Clerical Error

from the whoops-a-daisy dept

So a few weeks ago we noted how the Ajit Pai FCC has been trying to pretend that some modest recent broadband growth is directly thanks to its unpopular policies -- like killing net neutrality. Except a closer look at the report shows the data they used was only accurate up to the tail end of 2017, when net neutrality wasn't even formally repealed until June of 2018 (read: the growth couldn't have been due to killing net neutrality yet, because it hadn't technically happened yet). A lot of the "record fiber growth" Pai also tried to credit his policies for was actually courtesy of the fiber build-out conditions affixed to the AT&T DirecTV merger by the previous FCC.

In short, Pai's office has been falsely taking credit for some modest industry growth in broadband availability it had nothing to actually do with. And in a few instances, the FCC tried to claim that broadband growth was due to "deregulation," when market intervention (merger conditions) was actually to thank.

Now some deeper analysis shows that another huge chunk of Pai's supposed broadband growth was thanks to a... clerical error. A deeper analysis of the FCC's broadband growth numbers by consumer group Free Press showed that a company by the name of Barrier Communications Corporation appears to have dramatically overstated its broadband deployment during the period in question by a cool 1.5 million locations:

"When conducting our initial analysis of the December 2017 Form 477 Deployment data, we noticed that a new Form 477 filer, Barrier Communications Corporation (d/b/a BarrierFree), claimed deployment of fiber-to-the-home (“FTTH”) and fixed wireless services (each at downstream/upstream speeds of 940 Mbps/880 Mbps) to Census blocks containing nearly 62 million persons. This claimed level of deployment would make BarrierFree the fourth largest U.S. ISP in terms of population coverage – an implausible suggestion, to put it mildly.

This claimed level of deployment stood out to us for numerous reasons, including the impossibility of a new entrant going from serving zero Census blocks as of June 30, 2017, to serving nearly 1.5 million blocks containing nearly 20 percent of the U.S. population in just six months time. We further examined the underlying Form 477 data and discovered that BarrierFree appears to have simply submitted as its coverage area a list of every single Census block in each of eight states in which it claimed service: CT, DC, MD, NJ, NY, PA, RI, and VA.

When contacted by Ars Technica, the company in question acknowledged it had made an error when filing form 477 data with the FCC, saying the data was "parsed incorrectly in the upload process." The impact was notable, with roughly 1.5 million of the supposed 5.6 million "new" areas where 25Mbps/3Mbps speeds had been deployed never having actually existed. As noted previously, the growth Pai credits to his own "deregulatory" agenda was actually well in line with past, pre-Pai periods, and in some instances actually slower. Once you factor in all of these errors the claims get even less impressive.

Of course the formal study Pai's basing these numbers on hasn't been fully released yet. These were all just claims made in an initial FCC press release featuring very-carefully chosen statistics. Whether these and other errors are fixed in the final report (which should drop later this month or early next) should give you a good luck at just how much the current FCC actually values data integrity.

Filed Under: ajit pai, broadband, fcc, growth, net neutrality
Companies: barrier communications, free press


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  • icon
    MDT (profile), 12 Mar 2019 @ 6:58am

    Good Luck

    should give you a good luck at just how much the current FCC actually values data integrity

    Good Luck getting anything approaching integrity from Pai's FCC...

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

  • icon
    Darkness Of Course (profile), 12 Mar 2019 @ 11:57am

    The least competent shall keep screwing up.

    Ajit Pai never looked beyond the number at the bottom.

    Nothing clarifies the quality of Republicans in any position in this administration than Pai claiming positive results on bad data.

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

  • icon
    ECA (profile), 12 Mar 2019 @ 12:03pm

    Lets force the point

    Until the Citizens decide to FORCE our reps do do the right thing, and to TRULY represent us...we wont get anything.

    Until the people start paying attention, and Let them know WHAT WE THINK... they will follow the money.

    We can do a few things they will NOT like, and neither will the corps.
    At one point in the past, there was a Paper that showed WHO voted for what. and what those Bills did.. and I have not seen it in along time. Its probably buried someplace on the net.

    The other thing that can be done, is an award system. Not sponsored by corps, is to send them Stars/badges for being a good person/doing the right things... Private and public.

    We have to get them to Stand out, AS it used to be... they are Public servants, Not private Corp sponsored idiots.

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

    • identicon
      bob, 12 Mar 2019 @ 2:55pm

      Re: Lets force the point

      ...send them Stars/badges for being a good person/doing the right things... Private and public.

      If our congress members are motivated by something as simple as stars/badges then no wonder they act like school children.

      I like your idea of using something else to reward them but garbage will not work.

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

      • icon
        ECA (profile), 12 Mar 2019 @ 5:43pm

        Re: Re: Lets force the point

        Wow,
        so them standing up and showing that a group Suggests they are doing the right thing, isnt going to help others vote for him Next term??
        Knowing someone can wear a Badge of honor.. might make you respect them more..
        Or are you one of those, That think the Badges for boy scouts are nothing to worry about. They mane nothing. Ask an Eagle scout how long it took.

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

        • identicon
          bob, 12 Mar 2019 @ 11:22pm

          Re: Re: Re: Lets force the point

          Oh I totally get behind something when it has meaning like when someone worked hard to get an award like eagle scout or graduating with a good degree from an accredited college. I have an eagle award myself, that I worked a long time on.

          The problem is getting those stars/awards to mean something to the politicians and the citizens that vote for them. Money talks, the rest is just noise in the background.

          The problem i was pointing out is that unless you get a big shift in perception all politicians and voters are going to consider those stars/badges as something of no value. Like a sticker tgat a teacher gives to his/her students. Sure it looks cool and may even let others know you did something cool, or make you feel better about yourself. But in the end it has no inherent value unless everybody cares about it.

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

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 13 Mar 2019 @ 2:02pm

          Re: Re: Re: Lets force the point

          badges, we don't need no stinking badges

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 12 Mar 2019 @ 2:42pm

    Government accountability

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

  • icon
    katsai (profile), 12 Mar 2019 @ 5:22pm

    A likely excuse

    Really? You're going with "the data was 'parsed incorrectly in the upload process'"? How does that even happen? Is that even possible? Someone with more experience than me in submitting forms to the FCC please chime in.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 12 Mar 2019 @ 7:03pm

      Re: A likely excuse

      Well... what did we expect from Pai, competence?

      This is the equivalent of the RIAA/Guardaley going "Oh, our tech is 100% accurate. A dead grandmother got sued? That's the tech being faulty, not us, so you can't hold us responsible at all. But we'll still be allowed to use our tech for future cases, which is 100% accurate. Honest!"

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


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