Monday, October 12, 2009

USA - GAO confirms that data on broadband for the USA is inadequate

[telephony online] The Government Accountability Office has discovered what pretty much everyone in telecom already knew: Despite the best efforts of bureaucrats and broadband advocates, we don’t really have solid data about broadband deployment and speeds that can be used to make national or international comparisons.

That’s a prime reason many are dismissive of the Organization for Economic and Cooperative Development’s rankings, which put the US 15th in broadband penetration globally. They just aren’t counting right, OECD critics sniff.

But how hard can it be to determine who can get broadband, and at what speed and price? Apparently, nearly impossible. As the GAO report issued last Friday states, the Federal Communications Commission’s efforts are weak, since they don’t require service providers to provide information on speeds, price, availability and service reliability.

Similarly, the GAO said, the current broadband stimulus effort doesn’t require applicants to report broadband speeds in a consistent manner.

There have been a number of independent efforts to collect this data – is one and Connected Nation another – and the NTIA is trying to put together a broadband map. But really, can’t the telecom industry get its act together on this one issue?

Again, apparently not. In their comments to the GAO, the service providers and their trade organizations said the status quo is just fine, since a competitive market is delivering faster speeds at lower prices.

While this is generally true, that doesn’t mean that a consumer can sit down and easily determine what is available to them and at what price. If you’ve tried to sort through the confusion of pricing, promotions and service claims lately, it’s obvious that transparency is the last thing consumers are getting. Layer on top of that the broadband industry’s biggest scam – the “up to” wording of every speed delivered, and it’s easy to see why consumer advocacy groups told the GAO that more information is needed.

This isn’t – or shouldn’t be – rocket science. The telecom industry is doing its credibility no favors at all by putting up barriers to basic information, and as the deadline for a national broadband policy nears, every effort should be made to prove consumers don’t need more protective regulation. Lifting the veil on broadband deployment information would be one step in the right direction.

Measuring broadband shouldn’t be this hard
see also GAO - Telecommunications: Current Broadband Measures Have Limitations and New Measures Are Promising but Need Improvement

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