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.