New York State Leaders Finally Realize U.S. Broadband Availability Data Is Hot Garbage

from the can't-fix-what-you-don't-understand dept

We've noted for years how, despite a lot of pretense to the contrary, the federal government doesn't actually know where broadband is or isn't available. The FCC usually doesn't independently confirm that ISP-provided data is accurate, and the agency declares an entire area "served" with broadband if just one home in a zip code has service. Efforts to fix this problem have historically been undermined by telecom lobbying, since incumbent ISPs aren't keen on further highlighting the profound lack of competition (and high prices) that plague the sector.

In just the latest in a long line of discordant efforts to fix the problem, New York state has announced it will be conducting a new study to determine broadband availability, after a survey found that the federal and state government's existing broadband availability data was largely nonsense. It's a problem that has plagued the U.S. for roughly twenty years, but it is seeing renewed attention given that studies have shown that 42 million Americans lack access (double official FCC estimates) to any broadband whatsoever during a pandemic:

"This crisis is hurting our economy, our small businesses, our families, and our children," Rep. Brindisi said. "Shockingly, the Federal Communications Commission doesn't even know what areas have access to broadband and what areas don't."

It's not actually shocking. For twenty years the FCC has turned a blind eye toward our total failure to collect accurate broadband availability and pricing data, all while making major sweeping policy decisions (usually in favor of entrenched monopolies like AT&T, Comcast, and Verizon) based on that data anyway. The agency's $350 million broadband availability map all but hallucinates speeds and coverage, and fails to even catalog prices. In part because clearly showing Americans that they're paying more money for slower, patchier broadband than a long list of developed countries might just drive somebody to actually do something about it.

And it's not just FCC data, or one party that's the problem. State leaders like Andrew Cuomo have also parroted false claims that "98%" of New York state has access to broadband. When you bother to actually look, you'll find that most of those connections aren't broadband (25 Mbps down, 3 Mbps up as defined by the FCC at all), they're usually dial up, heavily capped, slow and expensive satellite, or aging DSL lines that haven't been meaningfully upgraded since the early aughts:

"You know there are percentages that you’ll hear that 98% or 99% of the state is covered, well it’s not really,” said Assembly Al Stirpe (D), “a lot of it is satellite coverage and some dial-up.”

The Governor’s Office has claimed that under the “New NY Broadband Program” which has invested $500 million dollars since 2015, New York’s broadband access is at 98%, a number both Stirpe and Crouch think is a stretch.

While the federal government finally mandated at least some broadband mapping improvements via the Broadband Data Act, the FCC currently lacks the funding to follow through (because we keep kneecapping our regulators), it will likely take years to implement, and the wireless industry is already lobbying to have 5G excluded from the improvements (they don't want the public to understand 5G availability will be patchy as well). And with regulatory capture being just so hot right now, there's not much incentive toward genuine accountability and reform without a dramatic Congressional shake up.

It's all part of this ingenious cycle of intentional American dysfunction that involves making bad decisions based on bad data, then throwing billions in unaccountable subsidies at entrenched monopolies that easily should have delivered a fiber connection to every home in America by now. But because AT&T, Verizon, Charter, CenturyLink, and Comcast very much like things this way for what should be obvious reasons, we don't implement genuine federal or state reform the vast majority of the time. Policy "experts" then ignore or pretend corruption isn't at the root of the problem.

Rinse, wash, and repeat.

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Filed Under: broadband, broadband data, competition, fcc, new york


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  • icon
    arp2 (profile), 10 Aug 2020 @ 7:16am

    Especially Rural Americans

    "In part because clearly showing [rural] Americans that they're paying more money for slower, patchier broadband than a long list of developed countries might just drive somebody to actually do something about it."

    They'll still find a way to blame "big government" for a while. Eventually, I hope they come to realize that it's the lack of regulation and government handouts to private industry for nothing in return, will spur them to reconsider the role of government in telecom generally. One can dream.

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

  • icon
    ECA (profile), 10 Aug 2020 @ 8:01am

    ingenious cycle of intentional American dysfunction

    Its interesting to watch patterns in this country.
    from:
    Police
    Cities
    Corps
    banks
    Politicians
    Everyone is lying about this and that. And its funny that this is Opinion vs facts.(there is no such thing as a lie, if its an opinion??)
    This nation has Stalled in advancing and development. No one wants to get things done.
    Love the complaints that the gov. isnt doing anything, After Everyone has bitched that the Gov. is to big/has to much control and Cut/limited every part of it.
    As bad as a corp Cutting the hours for Janitors to work, things seem to get Dirty, and the toilet paper is never changed.
    It all piles up, and nothing gets DONE.
    Except those on top, ALWAYS GET PAID. And if we can FIX that part, AS IN, paying for hours worked and Proving you are WORTH the money. Just as the rest of us do, every day we work.

    Its also been interesting, as the Net has developed, the Gov. agencies had allot of data accessible, but for Some strange reason, allot has been cut back. It disappeared. There was a section on Which cities and When was the last time water sources were tested and Tested for what.
    Going thru the BLS, is fun, strange and conflicting. They have a list of Min wage earners but dont consider the STATES that have a living wage, insted of $7.50 per hour. Sot he percentage of Min wage earners is Like 6%.. And that hits news as we only have 6% at min wage.(I sent a note to them asking about that). Then there is the idea of the Corps not paying $7.50, they pay $8, and never get on the list of Min wage companies.

    I wont even mention the stock market being manipulated. And over valued corps, that really dont make anything.

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

    • icon
      ECA (profile), 10 Aug 2020 @ 8:08am

      Re: ingenious cycle of intentional American dysfunction

      Love the idea that corps with to privatize everything..(not really)
      From roads, bridges, Gov. agencies..FDA/FCC.. Anything they THINK they can make money doing.
      But looking at both sides, its WHO is responsible for problems..
      Rather call 1 state/gov agencies, then try to find 1 corp thats 3 states over.

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

      • icon
        ECA (profile), 10 Aug 2020 @ 12:00pm

        Re: Re: ingenious cycle of intentional American dysfunction

        EASIER..
        3 things..

        1. a letter asking with free return.
          HOME Internet access? Not Sat, and not Cellphone.

        2. a Link.
          Click here, and small script runs, grabs all local info, Shows to person then sends the data..

        3. MArk every address thats listed as a customer. MAP IT. thats the coverage..nothing more nothing added.

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

  • icon
    Thad (profile), 10 Aug 2020 @ 9:25am

    It's not actually shocking.

    *clears throat, pushes up glasses*

    dictionary.com:

    shocking

    1. causing intense surprise, disgust, horror, etc.

    It may not be surprising, but it's certainly disgusting.

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

  • icon
    DB (profile), 10 Aug 2020 @ 9:37am

    There could easily have been a census question...

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

    • icon
      JoeDetroit (profile), 10 Aug 2020 @ 10:08am

      Re:

      Wow! Infuckinggenius idea! A bit late of course.

      Do you have access to high speed Internet?
      If yes, do you have more than one provider of high speed Internet?

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 10 Aug 2020 @ 10:10am

      Re:

      exactly, Do you have broadband available at your address (from a non satellite provider)...

      Simple broadband map built from real world input (which would be 99% better than the lobbiest purchased 'broadband map' that the FCC is currently using.

      Now why didn't anyone think of this (it's possible someone did, but they were paid enough by the Telecom lobbies to "just forget about it..." Those are some good ideas there, it would be a shame if something happened to them...

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

  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 10 Aug 2020 @ 10:27am

    TechDIRT...

    According to the left wingers at this less than reputable site, I shouldn't have good internet, because I'm in Kansas.

    My 200MB down and 200MB up works great for me.

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

    • identicon
      Glen, 10 Aug 2020 @ 10:49am

      Re: TechDIRT...

      So wait, broadband is a zero sum game? Someone has to give up speeds for someone else to get speeds? That's news to me.

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

      • icon
        PaulT (profile), 10 Aug 2020 @ 11:46pm

        Re: Re: TechDIRT...

        "So wait, broadband is a zero sum game? "

        I think what he means is that since he doesn't have a particular problem, nobody has it. Kind of like since I have a job, I'm up to date with my rent and have a full fridge, that means unemployment, homelessness and hunger don't exist.

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

        • icon
          Scary Devil Monastery (profile), 11 Aug 2020 @ 1:02am

          Re: Re: Re: TechDIRT...

          "I think what he means is that since he doesn't have a particular problem, nobody has it."

          Ah, so he's part of the "Fuck you, got mine" crowd then.

          It's real irony that in 2020 a significant portion of US citizenry has devolved to emulate the fatalistic and sociopathic xenophobia of stereotypical 17th-century russian peasants. Who at least had good cause to put themselves first and foremost in the interest of sheer survival.

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

    • icon
      Celyxise (profile), 10 Aug 2020 @ 11:22am

      Re: TechDIRT...

      Yeah they should have used better terminology, something that means its good in some places and bad in others...

      Maybe call it patchy? I feel like I heard that used for this somewhere.

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

    • icon
      deadzone (profile), 10 Aug 2020 @ 1:29pm

      Re: TechDIRT...

      Yeah, my internet access at work is great as well! Pretty sure you are literally being like the Wizard of Oz and lying your ass off otherwise. BTW this isn't a particular party thing it's more of a "the FCC is terrible" type of thing.

      Have a good day.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 10 Aug 2020 @ 5:41pm

      Re:

      Nice try, Richard Bennett.

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

    • icon
      PaulT (profile), 10 Aug 2020 @ 11:44pm

      Re: TechDIRT...

      "According to the left wingers at this less than reputable site, I shouldn't have good internet, because I'm in Kansas."

      No, according to verifiable reality, you're less likely to have good internet in Kansas than you are in Europe or certain parts of Asia. It's possible to have it, but you can't depend on it as much as you can in the first world.

      "My 200MB down and 200MB up works great for me."

      I have 600Mb fibre both ways. Even your boast is pathetic.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 10 Aug 2020 @ 10:59am

    while there are politicians getting rich off of the backs of citizens, by bringing in laws and allowing these major companions continue to screw the people with preposterous charges for piss poor speeds, all using public funds, no amount of complaining, of 'naming and shaming' will make the slightest bit of difference. the first thing needed is to have these politicians replaced at the next polls, then to bring in laws that stop competition from being stopped and prevent the $m infunding that keep being thrown at the companies. they have had so much public money, it's offensive, yet they continue to complain that they cant afford to do this, change that, upgrade something else! and all the while this is going on, not only are these companies making extortionate profits for the piss poor service they give, the heads of these companies receive yearly salaries big enough to be able to individually fund the search for a cure for the covid19 pandemic, a search that we, the people will have to pay for, sooner or later, especially given the way our illustrious leader has performed since the start of the crisis!

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

  • icon
    Ehud Gavron (profile), 10 Aug 2020 @ 2:41pm

    Some references

    For details on the FCC's "idea" of what constitutes broadband (yes, satellite is on there as is DSL - a great 1990s answer) see https://docs.fcc.gov/public/attachments/FCC-20-50A1.pdf .

    If you want to find out more about who is required to file the broadband certifications (Form 477) see
    https://transition.fcc.gov/broadband/broadband_data_faq.pdf

    Don't forget to check out Sec 22 which allows the carrier to submit the data on a FLOPPY DISKETTE.

    All references subject to change over time, and conflict with other references... and whatever Ajit Pai comes up with yesterday and tell us all tomorrow.

    E

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

  • identicon
    John, 10 Aug 2020 @ 3:38pm

    The best?

    I'm a big fan of capitalism except when there are monopolies, assisted by government. In Australia, the wholesale provider is a government corporation who will sell wholesale access to its network to whoever wants it. You can search any address in the country and know exactly the type of access you will get and the ISPs available. At each location there are dozens of retail ISPs competing for your money. Its not perfect. NBN was used as a political football and the technology used/promised over time has changed. But for most of the country you can get FTTP, FFTN, Mixed Coaxial/Fibre, Fixed Wireless (rural) or satellite (remote) connections. Many complained FTTP should have been given to all, without even considering the cost of role out. Australia is the size of USA with a 1/10 of the population.

    The current promise is 25/5mpbs minimum and the ISP can only advertise what they can achieve during peak averages. They can't charge extras above the advertised price. The biggest worry is the government will sell NBN and we will have a another for-profit monopoly.
    https://www.nbnco.com.au/learn/rollout-map

    To an outsider, USA's collective fear of socialists/commies is getting in the way of essential utilities. This fear and blind, unquestioning support for a political party no matter how badly they perform, is a giant ancher around your neck. Many in Australia and other countries have no problems voting for another party if their normal preference is performing badly. The voter is responsible for the mess. Demand better and vote out bad performers. You can get therapy later.

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

    • icon
      Scary Devil Monastery (profile), 11 Aug 2020 @ 1:06am

      Re: The best?

      "To an outsider, USA's collective fear of socialists/commies is getting in the way of essential utilities. This fear and blind, unquestioning support for a political party no matter how badly they perform, is a giant ancher around your neck."

      Well, that too.

      But the first truly ironic bit of that situation is where the US citizens most hysterically afraid of socialism and communism all make it pretty clear they're in favor of collectivism in all things. They'd actually find themselves quite at home in Stalin's Soviet Union.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 10 Aug 2020 @ 3:55pm

    [T]he wireless industry is already lobbying to have 5G excluded from the improvements (they don't want the public to understand 5G availability will be patchy as well).

    This is the same wireless industry that is starting to dismantle its 3G network. Which means patchy 5G availability will soon be joined by no availability in places that currently only have 3G or lower. T Mobile has already started. AT&T is poised to start next year. This leaves us with Verizon as one of the only national cellular providers still supporting 3G networks (which is a good thing for them, considering the state of their 5G network).

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

  • identicon
    automode, 10 Aug 2020 @ 6:44pm

    How it works

    Mega ISP: “Oh yeah, our State plan includes 98 million in rural high speed internet over the next 5 years! We want to roll this out but we need some concessions because 98 million isn’t really enough to cover the costs.”
    State: “What concessions?”
    Mega ISP: “We just need the State to follow current FCC requirements”
    State: “I thought that’s what we are doing.”
    Mega ISP: “Well if that’s what you thought, I believe we can make a deal. I also have bridge I think I can get you a good deal on.”
    State: “Oh dude! A two-fer! I love a two-fer!”
    Mega ISP: Oh no, it’s not a two-fer, it’s a five-fer. All I need to do is get back to Legal with how stupid you are and I might even be able to turn this into a ten-fer!”
    State: “Well that sounds too good to be true. You know what they say about that, right?”
    State: “Wait. Did you just call me stupid?”
    Mega ISP: “Me? No, no, no! I said “Cupid”. You know, like “I love the way this State thinks!” Cupid! That’s the ticket. I said I’d get back to Legal with how “Cupid” you are.”
    State: Ah. “Well don’t expect chocolates and flowers on Valentine’s day.”
    Mega ISP: “Of course not! Just don’t expect chocolates and flowers eith…. Wait. You’re messing with me now, right? You knew we weren’t going to do shit except get you to legalize the languishing of rural America until it expanded enough for us to make money off of.”
    State: “You nailed it! In the meantime all these elected officials are desperate to show our constituents they care. Well, “care”, but not really. Government job, you know. Can’t care about plain mashed potatoes until you get the gravy? Know what I’m saying’?”
    Mega ISP: “Damn, dude. You and me are going to get along just fine. Almost makes me regret that Cupid backtrack.”
    State: “And you should. If they can’t get re-elected by lying to the constituents, how do they get re-elected? Oh yeah! Bitches like you! Let’s just package up this dog shit like it’s solid gold! Gold gravy! You = Gravy”
    Mega ISP: “Wait, what?”
    State: “Look, Mega ISP loser, the State is here to get shit DONE. Not for Mildred on Rural route 88 in the back-ass woods of Who Gives A Shit county, for the elected officials who wheel and deal this garbage. You’re my bitch now. Make me some pie!”
    Mega ISP: “You should have just started with that info.”
    State: “Well, I didn’t trust you back then.”
    Mega ISP: “Not really sure I trust you now.”
    State: “Makes sense. We write the laws you want in the books. What do you do?”
    Mega ISP: “Just kidding. If that’s what you think then I totally trust you.”
    State: “Wait. What?”
    Mega ISP: “I said “Cupid”.”

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

  • icon
    That Anonymous Coward (profile), 11 Aug 2020 @ 6:41pm

    Same thing over & over....

    "has invested $500 million dollars since 2015"

    And did you pay that money to the same companies who were already robbing the USF of billions while doing nothing?

    Are you a special kind of stupid?

    I give it another 10 years until they notice those 'breaking' news stories about small towns building out their own shit & getting way better service & ROI.

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

  • icon
    mpandoayw (profile), 17 Aug 2020 @ 2:27am

    Review

    Thank you for reading this Techdirt post. With so many things competing for everyone’s attention these days, we really appreciate you giving us your time. We work hard every day to put quality content out there for our community. Techdirt is one of the few remaining truly independent media outlets. We do not have a giant corporation behind us, and we rely heavily https://www.telldunkin.me/ on our community to support us, in an age when advertisers are increasingly uninterested in sponsoring small, independent sites — especially a site like ours that is unwilling to pull punches in its reporting and analysis.

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


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