Congress Asks FCC To Accurately Count U.S. Broadband Homes

Congress has added its voice to the growing number of critics who have noted that the FCC is misreporting broadband penetration in the U.S. According to eWeek, last Wednesday a House subcommittee “approved legislation to change the Federal Communications Commission’s methodology for determining deployment.” The FCC currently counts a single home in a zip code as representative of the full zip code—so one home having broadband access is considered the same as every home in that area having broadband access. By doing this, they inflate the number of homes with broadband access and present a picture of increased “natural” competition in the market, which is then used by telecoms and lobbyists to argue against policy decisions that don’t favor existing corporations.

The committee chairman, Rep. Ed Markey, said this about requiring the FCC to collect data more accurately:

The state of knowledge around the status of broadband services in the United States also affects the ability of policymakers to make sound decisions. The federal government can do a much better job in reforming multibillion-dollar grant and subsidy programs–whether at the Rural Utilities Service or the universal service program at the FCC.

To get the legislation moving, Markey had to compromise on a couple of key data points that would have been useful:

Since the bill was introduced earlier this year, Markey has compromised with Republicans by no longer redefining broadband as speeds of at least 2M bps. Republicans also rejected Markey’s idea that broadband providers give the government information on prices and speed.

“Lawmakers Approve Broadband Mapping Plan” [eWeek via Techdirt]
(Photo: Getty)

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  1. axiomatic says:

    Tell them we are going to start tallying VOTES in the same manner they are tallying broadband availability. I assure you they will correct this fast.

  2. Geekybiker says:

    So wait. They are using the numbers to inflate the amount of coverage they have in rural areas? Doesnt this mean that if the FCC gets a more accurate count that prices will end up going up for the majority of customers as they are forced to extend into areas where they can’t recoup their operating costs?

  3. skrom says:

    As stated in the article

    The state of knowledge around the status of broadband services in the United States also affects the ability of policymakers to make sound decisions. The federal government can do a much better job in reforming multibillion-dollar grant and subsidy programs–whether at the Rural Utilities Service or the universal service program at the FCC.

    So once again it looks like people are looking for handouts for free or reduced cost broadband. Im sorry but its bad enough when you are lazy and refuse to work and get free food and housing handouts, but broadband is NOT a necessity, in fact internet isnt a necessity to live. If you want broadband GET A JOB!!!!!!!!

  4. TechnoDestructo says:

    Whaaaat the fuck?

    There are some pretty large zip codes out there. And last I checked (years ago, but for all I know it still might not be), my mom’s house was still not in any service area for cable, and it was too remote to get DSL…this in a zip code where a lot of houses could get it.

    And it’s the REPUBLICANS that are siding with the industry in this case? I thought they were pretending to represent rural America?

  5. GearheadGeek says:

    @Geekybiker: Cabling is overrated. If pressure were put on carriers to serve more of their customers, these days in rural areas they’d probably choose wireless options like WiMAX and older line-of-sight technologies that are already implemented in many places in Texas. Since it wouldn’t be a wire or fiber service, they’d probably be able to tariff it differently and charge the rural, low-density customer more per megabit/sec.

  6. XianZomby says:

    @skrom: I’m pretty sure “multibillion-dollar grant” and “subsidy” here isn’t about Internet “handouts.” But rather, about incentivizing network companies to push their networks into rural areas, despite the low customer density there. Likely, the “subsidies” are for the network companies, not the customers. So that, instead of a network company saying “we’re not going to build infrastructure to Podunk, USA because there’s not enough customers there to allow us to recoup our infrastructure investment” they can say “thanks for the help, Federal Government, now we can surely cover the entire country with broadband.” Then, if you live in a rural area, you too can get Internet at the same price as the city mouse. Unless you want to argue “if you want Internet, move to the city,” then subsidies to build Internet (and electric, and water, and sewer, and cellular, and telephone, and cable) infrastructure out into the currently unserved rural areas of the United States is a good thing. Farmers shouldn’t have to choose between being able to grow food for you and having Internet for their kids. They should have both. With federal subsidies, they will have the option to pay the same price for Internet and cable as you.

  7. JiminyChristmas says:

    @skrom: You can’t possibly be serious.

    An important goal of the subsidies such as those associated with the Rural Utility Service is not to supply low-income people with cheap broadband. It helps bring service to locales that would otherwise have none.

    Why would they have none? Because if the telcos, power generators, etc. were left to run just where they found it most profitable to do so large swathes of the country would have zero access to basic services. The idea of universal access to utilities isn’t a new one; it has been around at least since the Rural Electricification Act of 1936.

  8. JustAGuy2 says:

    @XianZomby:

    This is entirely reasonable, and once rural consumers agree to subsidize my rent so that my New York apartment costs the same as a similar amount of square footage in rural Nebraska, I’ll happily pay to subsidize broadband in rural Nebraska.

  9. RTFMate says:

    Yeah, but the FCC still classifies “broadband” as some redicously low value. Look at the concession that was made to move this forward. Dropping the 2mbs service. If they would have kept that terminology then the “cheap” DeathStar company’s DSL wouldn’t even be classified as “broadband” since that is only 1.5mbs. I wonder why the republicans had it blocked their favorite spying company would get beat up by lack of coverage.

    These speeds suck and poor consumers in the US are being raped over it.

    The FCC classifies broadband as 200kilobits.

    [www.fcc.gov]

  10. hapless says:

    @axiomatic:

    We already count votes this way. What did you think “gerrymandering” meant?

  11. Since the bill was introduced earlier this year, Markey has compromised with Republicans by no longer redefining broadband as speeds of at least 2M bps. Republicans also rejected Markey’s idea that broadband providers give the government information on prices and speed.

    Two words for you, simple and easy to understand: Fuck that.

  12. @axiomatic: You are aware a winner take all scheme is employed alreeady…

  13. Saboth says:

    @skrom:

    Personally, I just want reasonable broadband. Comcast just raised my rates (yet again). If you want their medium tier broadband (which says UP TO 6mb, but is actually more like 1mb), you pay $49 a month. I have this tier, and basic cable in one room and it costs me $105 a month. Ridiculous! I would value this package at $65-$75 a month, but I have no alternatives, no lower packages, and they have no competitors in the area. I would hope our government would do something about this.

  14. backbroken says:

    If broadband is overpriced, then why is it in so many homes? Broadband, let alone internet access, is not a necessity.

    If it is priced too high, then stop paying the price. I have a hunch that if few people were willing to pay the high price, the price would come down.

  15. silvanx says:

    So how many US households DO have broadband, approximately? I read 50% somewhere, but that seems high…

  16. I know people who live 15 minutes outside of baltimore and STILL can’t get broadband. There are people in the area who can get broadband, so with these rules the big telcos will just pass them by. The 1 person per zip thing doesnt just affect rural areas, it affects the burbs too.

    Oddly enough I live 30 miles from the closest city and I have 3 MB cable (still sucks, but its better than dialup.)

  17. JustAGuy2 says:

    @silvanx:

    That’s about right. About 110 million US households, 75 million with internet access, about 55 million with broadband, so about 2/3 of internet households and 1/2 of total households.

  18. Xkeeper says:

    @skrom:

    So once again it looks like people are looking for handouts for free or reduced cost broadband. Im sorry but its bad enough when you are lazy and refuse to work and get free food and housing handouts, but broadband is NOT a necessity, in fact internet isnt a necessity to live. If you want broadband GET A JOB!!!!!!!!

    That’s a nice idea and everything, until you realize that in some areas, even if you’ve got more than enough income to afford broadband, you can’t get it because it isn’t available in your area.

    Kindly shut the fuck up.

  19. JustAGuy2 says:

    @Xkeeper:

    Unless you’re literally living in a cave, you can get broadband. Period. Hughes or WildBlue will happily set you up.

    If you’re willing to pay enough, you can get _terrestrial_ broadband anywhere. Want a T-3 to rural Nebraska? No problem. Want a T-3 to rural Nebraska for a rate that doesn’t begin to cover the cost of delivering it to you? That’s a problem.