FCC Accused Of Falsely Inflating U.S. Gigabit Broadband Availability

from the rose-colored-glasses dept

However spotty and uncompetitive U.S. broadband is, it's particularly bad when it comes to faster speeds. Why? Because in many areas regional telcos simply refused to upgrade their aging DSL lines since doing so wasn't profitable enough, quickly enough for Wall Street's liking. As a result we've literally let these networks fall apart with no regulatory attention. That, in turn, has given cable giants like Comcast massive monopolies that cover huge swaths of the U.S., resulting in spotty coverage, higher prices, slower speeds, and routinely poor customer service.

Granted, the Ajit Pai and Trump FCC haven't been a big fan of data that accurately measures this problem. The agency has been caught time and time again leaning on data it knows isn't accurate to paint a rosy picture of U.S. broadband, which is designed to justify repeatedly kissing the ass of U.S. telecom monopolies.

Last week, the agency was again caught aggressively overinflating the availability of gigabit-speed broadband in the U.S. According to the official FCC tallies, gigabit broadband speeds are available to roughly 84% of the U.S. public, up from just 4 percent in 2016. This, the FCC will be quick to tell you, is thanks to its decision to kill net neutrality and neuter its consumer protection authority over giant broadband providers.

But when researchers at BroadbandNow did their own independent research to verify that data, they found that time and time again, the FCC's data was not just inaccurate, but immensely incorrect. Places the FCC claimed had gigabit broadband service consistently did not:

"We manually checked 75 addresses in zip codes where the FCC shows gigabit coverage, but BroadbandNow data shows that there is not an internet plan sold at that speed. We checked these addresses by calling internet service providers and asking if gigabit service was available. In all 75 cases, none of them had a gigabit service available."

In reality, somewhere around 56% of Americans may have an active gigabit connection, but even that estimate is considered optimistic given that the FCC's form 477 data collected from ISPs routinely isn't confirmed to be accurate. This creates inaccurate broadband availability maps (including the FCC's $300 million public facing one), which in turn prop up the agency's false claims that U.S. broadband is largely wonderful thanks to mindless deregulation of the sector. Worse, despite repeated criticism, the FCC's methodology remains comically bad, also resulting in an overestimate of both speed and availability:

"Chief among them is the caveat that a provider can mark a given census block – the level of granularity used within the form – as “covered” if so little as one home within the block has service in reality. This has led to widespread issues of over-reporting when it comes to where plans are actually available at the neighborhood level."

There's the added irony that a lot of the growth the U.S. did actually see during this period is thanks to things the Trump FCC either had nothing to do with, like the 2015 AT&T/DirecTV merger conditions requiring additional fiber deployment, or the hundreds of community-run municipal broadband networks agency commissioners have repeatedly demonized and have supported banning outright. This FCC then, in Trumpian fashion, claims that improvements it had nothing to do with, and those that succeeded despite it, justify deregulating Comcast and AT&T.

There's a reason that folks like Ajit Pai, hand in hand with industry, aren't fans of hard, clear data showing U.S. broadband is uncompetitive and overly expensive: somebody might just get the crazy idea to try and do something about it.

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Filed Under: ajit pai, broadband, competition, data, fcc, fiber, gigabit, lies, mapping


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  • identicon
    Pixelation, 16 Dec 2020 @ 7:51am

    Just make it what you want

    Obviously the FCC has been taking lessons from Hollywood accountants.

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

  • icon
    JBDragon (profile), 16 Dec 2020 @ 8:14am

    Trump has only been President for 4 years. Well, almost 4 years come next month. This whole Broadband thing has been happening for YEARS and YEARS!!!! This is not some new thing.

    One big plus we do seem to have is StarLink which people who had no real option as past Satellite Internet services have SUCKED big time, now have a real broadband option. You can check this out on YouTube as they set it up and do some speed tests. It's a real option for many people outside of town mainly. Those that don't even have a choice of Comcast or even crappy DSL.

    My Mom lives out in the country on 5 acres. I'll have to talk to her about maybe switching to StarLink from the crappy satellite service she currently has.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 16 Dec 2020 @ 7:04pm

      Re:

      It was happening with POTS before any internet at all, but that doesn't compare to the sheer magnitude of the bullshit Pai and his ilk try to sell with a straight face. I mean, they don't even have to go so far out of the way and lie so brazenly, but they do. It's just how things are done now. You aren't supposed to questiin anything, and if you do so what you're the anti-whatever liar just for asking.

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

  • icon
    ECA (profile), 16 Dec 2020 @ 2:11pm

    DSL. is a pain.

    Lets look at DSL,
    All these old phone line and when there was ONLY DIALUP connections, it wasnt enough.
    The Phone company wants about $2000 to install 1 pole to a home.
    So to go out and reinstall A better quality line would be HUGE.
    But whats happening? There are allot of lines that have not Ever been changed. 40 years of copper on those poles, and upgrading millions of miles of lines, esp out into the country area.
    5 guys out running New lines, at $15-20 per hour EACH.
    Then consider how many people have CUT the phone lines because they have a cellphone. They dont NEED the mainline phone. but NOW they want internet.

    basic phone service is/was $35 per month, THEN if all you wanted was internet, it was/is About $60-100 per month. Which is a good difference. but that Includes the phone service. And 1/2 speed if you use the phone WITH the internet.
    SAME line as before. So ATT is making over 2 times the price of Basic Phone service.
    Iv stated before the Fun part of HOW The inter net HIT in the 1990's. When the Phone system was setup for Only 6% max usage. And the odds say that Every major metro was doing the same, the MINIMUM needed, at anytime no more then 6% was in use, unless there was a major event happening. PTLD had to do a major upgrade and it took 6-12 months to get 1/2 of it running.
    It has been suggested to me that the 1st tier service of the backbone is NOW owned by these major cellphone/phone/cable Providers. There is no 3rd party to pay off, there is no 3rd party that IS installing anything MORE then needed. And we know the Gov. has Paid them allot of money to UPGRADE the main backbone.
    The question is, HAVE THEY?
    then comes something really stupid about our Past. HOW much of ANY of the system was/is updated over the years. PROBABLY NOT MUCH. And if they had updated, made it so it was abit MORE modular to repair and update AGAIN.
    The original lines took YEARS to build and install. Blasting rocks and mountains, and tearing up City blocks, and then installing poles. At one point they wanted everything underground, and they started that, and found it Very hard to do.(at least REAL expensive).
    Cable is interesting as 90% of it is hanging on the poles. And it was installed that way. But would you want a GLASS FIBER running around on poles? Even the Coax runs are being EATEN by the squirrels. Coax is run like the OLD 1 line for everyone, Party lines. PHONE lines are 1(pair) per house, and getting ISDN which is 8 pairs(16 wires) is VERY expensive to even think about.
    But why Not get it done?
    because Corps dont like spending money. SOMEONE has to loose money to get things going. And if they drop Stock Payments, to get it done, They will loose money THERE also.

    They(corps) have created a system that CAN NOT/Shouldnt loose money. It can only go UP and never down. Or someone will loose money(owner/CEO/board members)
    There is NO break even, there is NO balance, they can only go 1 way. They cant figure a way to get ANYTHING done and NOT loose money.
    That ATT manager that got a 10% raise and got harassed, for making almost 40 million per year.(love those contracts). I feel sorry for him.(almost)
    He couldnt see a way to lower Upper wages to get Area by area, UPGRADED.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 16 Dec 2020 @ 4:09pm

      Re: DSL. is a pain.

      When the Phone system was setup for Only 6% max usage

      And that has nothing to do with broadband capacity, as the phone switches that set that limit are separate from the packet switches that provide Internet service, and lines into the exchange feed both systems via a splitter, which is somewhat more fancy that the one fitted at the customer end of the line.

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

      • icon
        ECA (profile), 17 Dec 2020 @ 1:04pm

        Re: Re: DSL. is a pain.

        The problems come with a paired wire system. And then running 8/16/32/64 + pairs and the signal degradation, on copper lines.
        The whole system was designed over the idea of a Set freq range, and adding a wider range Causes More problems.
        Going into freq modulation, per EACH customer is fine, but can only handle so many on 1 line.
        (psst. I took classes on this)

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 16 Dec 2020 @ 3:05pm

    I cannot believe that anyone could accuse the Pai lot of doing something like this! As if they would! How dare anyone even consider it?

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

  • icon
    That One Guy (profile), 16 Dec 2020 @ 5:49pm

    Success thanks to FCC 'failure'

    There's the added irony that a lot of the growth the U.S. did actually see during this period is thanks to things the Trump FCC either had nothing to do with, like the 2015 AT&T/DirecTV merger conditions requiring additional fiber deployment, or the hundreds of community-run municipal broadband networks agency commissioners have repeatedly demonized and have supported banning outright.

    There is most certainly some serious irony to be found in the fact that to the extent that internet access and speeds have increased in the US it's not been because of anything Pai has done but due to factors he likely doesn't like if not actively opposes in the form of merger conditions that cost companies money and community broadband rollouts in spite of the constant attempts to stop them.

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


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