Congress Wants Consumers To Have More Information About Their Broadband Connection

The government may soon help consumers pick between competing broadband offers, if a Senate bill becomes law. Last week, the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation unanimously approved S. 1492, the Broadband Data Improvement Act. The bill focuses primarily on refining the FCC’s analysis of broadband deployment: the Commission would have to reevaluate the definition of broadband as anything over 200 kbps; broadband access would be evaluated by smaller zip+4 codes, rather than full zip codes; and, the Commission would need to create a new metric for services such as high definition video. Most helpful to consumers, however, is a provision calling for the Government Accountability Office to provide consumers with information about their broadband connection’s costs and capabilities:

From the bill:

SEC. 4. STUDY ON ADDITIONAL BROADBAND METRICS AND STANDARDS.
(a) IN GENERAL- The Comptroller General shall conduct a study to consider and evaluate additional broadband metrics or standards that may be used by industry and the Federal Government to provide users with more accurate information about the cost and capability of their broadband connection, and to better compare the deployment and penetration of broadband in the United States with other countries. At a minimum, such study shall consider potential standards or metrics that may be used–

(1) to calculate the average price per megabyte of broadband offerings;

(2) to reflect the average actual speed of broadband offerings compared to advertised potential speeds;

(3) to compare the availability and quality of broadband offerings in the United States with the availability and quality of broadband offerings in other industrialized nations, including countries that are members of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development; and

(4) to distinguish between complementary and substitutable broadband offerings in evaluating deployment and penetration.

Subsection 2 is especially exciting for its potential to raise awareness of the galling disparity between advertised speeds and realized speeds. Having passed the committee, the bill will next be considered by the full Senate.

Broadband Data Improvement Act clears Senate Commerce Committee [Ars Technica]
Commerce Committee Approves Inouye Broadband Data Collection Bill (Press Release) Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation
S.1492 – Broadband Data Improvement Act [THOMAS]
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