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FCC launches consumer tools for broadband

The Federal Communications Commission announced last week two new consumer tools on its broadband.gov website, The Consumer Broadband Test, which measures broadband quality indicators such as speed and latency, and The Broadband Dead Zone Report, which enables Americans to submit the street address location of a broadband “Dead Zone” where broadband is unavailable for purchase. Both test

See also:
The Digital Divide: Speed Matters

40 percent in US lack home broadband

Berkman Center report on broadband deployment

Next Generation Connectivity: A review of broadband Internet transitions and policy from around the world, The Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University. (February 2010).

On July 14, 2009, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) announced that the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University would conduct an independent expert review of existing literature and studies about broadband deployment and usage throughout the world and that this project would help inform the FCC’s efforts in developing the National Broadband Plan. The Berkman Center’s Final Report was submitted to the FCC on February 16, 2010.

Our most prominent initial findings, confirmed and extended in this final draft, were that U.S. broadband performance in the past decade has declined relative to other countries and is no better than middling. Our study expanded the well known observation with regard to penetration per 100 inhabitants, and examined and found the same to be true of penetration per household; subscriptions for mobile broadband; availability of nomadic access; as well as advertised speeds and actually measured speeds; and pricing at most tiers of service.

The Center has made the full datasets behind their research available for download.

40 percent in US lack home broadband

The new report from the National Telecommunications And Information Administration (NTIA) on broadband availability in the U.S. is now available. The most dramatic finding is that approximately 40 percent of all persons in the U.S. have no broadband access at home.

The good news is that “broadband Internet connectivity by households has grown dramatically” with 63.5 percent of U.S. households (not persons) having acces to broadband service at home — a 25 percent increase from two years ago.

We have to temper even this good news, however, when we realize that the definition of “broadband” is both vague and slow. The survey only asks respondents to differentiate between “A regular ‘dial-up’ connection” (not broadband) and everything else (“DSL, cable modem, fiber optics, satellite, wireless (such as Wi-Fi), mobile phone or PDA, or some other broadband”). (See: Survey Instrument, October 2009 CPS Internet Use Supplement.)

A separate survey by SpeedMatters.org (2009 Report on Internet Speeds in All 50 States) reports that the average download speed for the nation was 5.1 megabits per second (mbps) and the average upload speed was 1.1 mbps and that the United States ranks 28th in the world in average Internet connection speeds.

The NTIA report also notes that, while “virtually all demographic groups have increased their adoption of broadband services at home over time,” there are still “demographic disparities” of internet broadband access that have persisted over time.

Like previous NTIA reports, this one is based on data collected in the Census Bureau’s in the Current Population Survey. This time the survey used was conducted in October 2009 an had a sample size of approximately 54,000 households and 129,000 citizens. The last report was two years ago, Networked Nation: Broadband In America 2007. (See: NTIA says we are “reaping the rewards” of government’s broadband policy.)

An Associated Press story on the NTIA report (New data: 40 percent in US lack home broadband, By Joelle Tessler, Seattle Post Intelligencer, February 16, 2010) quotes FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski saying that “he wants 100 million U.S. households to have access to ultra high-speed Internet connections, with speeds of 100 megabits per second, by 2020. That would be several times faster than the download speeds many U.S. homes with broadband get now – 3 megabits to 20 megabits per second.”

See also: Survey: 40 percent in U.S. have no broadband, by Lance Whitney, CNet (February 16, 2010).

Comments sought for Berkman study on broadband around the world

Yochai Benkler (long-time commons defender and writer of “Wealth of Networks”) and the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard have produced for the FCC a report on broadband around the world. The report (PDF) is now open for public comment (FCC directions for public comment are here). Comments look to be due by November 16, 2009.

In an interview on the Berkman site, Benkler stated:

I think there are two pieces of news that will be most salient for people as they look at this report. The first is a response to the question: ‘how are we [the U.S.] doing?’, and the answer is that we’re overall middle-of-the-pack, no better. The second responds to the question: ‘What policies and practices worked for countries that have done well?’, and the answer to that is: there is good evidence to support the proposition that a family of policies called ‘open access,’ that encourage competition, played an important role.

Here’s the FCC’s public notice:

On July 14, the Commission announced in a press release that Harvard University’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society would conduct an expert review of existing literature and studies about broadband deployment and usage throughout the world to inform the Commission’s development of a National Broadband Plan.

A draft of the study has now been completed. The Commission is seeking public comment on the study, and has posted the draft for public review at the following Internet address:


Specifically, the Commission seeks comment on the following:

  1. Does the study accomplish its intended purposes?
  2. Does the study provide a complete and objective survey of the subject matter?
  3. How accurately and comprehensively does the study summarize the broadband experiences of other countries?
  4. How much weight should the Commission give to this study as it develops a National Broadband Plan?
  5. Are additional studies needed along the lines of the Berkman study?
  6. Please provide any other comments on the Berkman study that you deem relevant.

Comments look to be due by November 16, 2009.

[Thanks BoingBoing!]

Obama Adviser Eyes Government-Built Broadband System

Susan Crawford, special assistant to the President Obama for science, technology and innovation policy and a member of the National Economic Council, said she is “intrigued” by the Australian model.

[Australian] Officials have released an historic government plan to spend tens of billions of dollars constructing a nationwide, state-of-the-art broadband network featuring speeds 100 times faster than today’s technology.

The new infrastructure would reach every citizen, delivering affordable connections at taxpayer-subsidized rates…

…Despite Crawford’s interest, skeptics abound.