FCC underestimates number of folks with no access to broadband by 50%

The FCC’s Broadband Deployment Report states that 21.3 million Americans, or 6.5 percent of the population, lack access to broadband internet, including wired and fixed wireless connections. This figure relies upon semi-annual self-reporting by internet service providers using the FCC-mandated “Form 477.”

However, there is a widely acknowledged flaw with Form 477 reporting: if an ISP offers service to at least one household in a census block, then the FCC counts the entire census block as covered by that provider. BroadbandNow Research examined the magnitude of this flaw by manually checking internet availability using FCC data as the source of truth for randomly selected addresses.

Based on our research, we estimate that 42 million Americans do not have access to wired or fixed wireless broadband.

RTFA to understand the details. Based on my reading, the FCC is incompetent or simply doesn’t care about truthful reporting.

Or both.

Cities joining to offer quality, affordable broadband — pissing off today’s FCC!

❝ This is a story that defies two strongly held beliefs. The first—embraced fervently by today’s FCC — is that the private marketplace is delivering world-class internet access infrastructure at low prices to all Americans, particularly in urban areas. The second is that cities are so busy competing that they are incapable of cooperating with one another, particularly when they have little in common save proximity.

❝ These two beliefs aren’t necessarily true. Right now, the 16 very different cities that make up the South Bay region of Southern California have gotten fed up with their internet access situation: They’re paying too much for too little. So they are working together to collectively lower the amounts they pay for city communications by at least a third. It’s the first step along a path that, ultimately, will bring far cheaper internet access services to the 1.1 million people who live in the region.

Maybe cities can cooperate and save money without compromising their local autonomy. At this same moment, though, the FCC is on a march to smother local authority by blocking states from regulating any aspect of broadband service, supporting states that have raised barriers to municipal networks, deregulating pricing for lines running between cities, and removing local control over rights-of-way that could be used to bring cheaper access into town…the FCC would like to bar other regions from acting in just this kind of sensible way.

The FCC has never been allowed much freedom to aid advocates of modern tech. Overlap of interests doesn’t signify choice. With a reactionary creep in the White House, options narrowed a lot more. Just another good reason to fight hard enough to elect alternatives that are competent technically, moderate or better, politically…and keep on trying for better.

As Comcast deal fails, broadband monopolies remain

Critics of the Comcast-Time Warner Cable deal made convincing arguments that it would be bad for consumers, and for the media companies that want to deliver stuff to consumers on the Internet…Astonishingly, Washington listened.

But in the end, killing the Comcast* deal just maintains the status quo. And when it comes to broadband Internet in the U.S., the status quo is pretty lousy: Most people who want high-speed access are stuck with a single provider, with no incentive to provide better speeds, quality or service.

A U.S. Department of Commerce report, produced a few months ago, lays it out clearly. If you define “broadband” as speeds of 25 megabits per second, as federal regulators want to do, only 37 percent of the population has any choice at all when it comes to providers. And most of that group is looking at a duopoly, likely split up between a cable TV company and a telco. Only 9 percent of the country has real choice — 3 options or more…

My family, my community, has only the monopoly of Comcast for a choice. They guarantee me 1 megabit more than the FCC minimum standard of 25mbps. All charges in, I pay almost $80/month. Not so incidentally, I get that through a “deal” which saves me a couple buck$ – and ComCrap then counts us as a cable TV customer as part of their nationwide lie about also providing that service to families in addition to internet access.

I don’t even have their crap TV box plugged in.

…An unintended consequence of the Comcast bid is that it pushed regulators to adopt net neutrality rules, making it harder — at least for now — for the monopolists and dupolists that control our broadband to abuse that control. But that doesn’t mean they’ll work hard to improve service, or their speed, or lower prices.

Peter Kafka concludes that Google’s here-and-there niche installations of Internet fibre are the last best chance we have for affordable, truly fast broadband.

It’s hard to imagine Google actually pushing Fiber through America, and creating real competition city by city. But it’s harder to imagine any other solution. And we need something.

I dunno. FDR made rural electrification work for Americans. Perhaps, if some election in the vaguely distant future gets us a progressive president and a Congress with backbone – simultaneously – we might stand a chance.

Uncle Sugar continues to fall behind in affordable broadband


America’s slow and expensive Internet is more than just an annoyance for people trying to watch “Happy Gilmore” on Netflix. Largely a consequence of monopoly providers, the sluggish service could have long-term economic consequences for American competitiveness.

Downloading a high-definition movie takes about seven seconds in Seoul, Hong Kong, Tokyo, Zurich, Bucharest and Paris, and people pay as little as $30 a month for that connection. In Los Angeles, New York and Washington, downloading the same movie takes 1.4 minutes for people with the fastest Internet available, and they pay $300 a month for the privilege, according to The Cost of Connectivity, a report published Thursday by the New America Foundation’s Open Technology Institute.

The report compares Internet access in big American cities with access in Europe and Asia. Some surprising smaller American cities — Chattanooga, Tenn.; Kansas City (in both Kansas and Missouri); Lafayette, La.; and Bristol, Va. — tied for speed with the biggest cities abroad. In each, the high-speed Internet provider is not one of the big cable or phone companies that provide Internet to most of the United States, but a city-run network or start-up service.

The reason the United States lags many countries in both speed and affordability, according to people who study the issue, has nothing to do with technology. Instead, it is an economic policy problem — the lack of competition in the broadband industry…

For relatively high-speed Internet at 25 megabits per second, 75 percent of homes have one option at most, according to the Federal Communications Commission — usually Comcast, Time Warner, AT&T or Verizon. It’s an issue anyone who has shopped for Internet knows well, and it is even worse for people who live in rural areas. It matters not just for entertainment; an Internet connection is necessary for people to find and perform jobs, and to do new things in areas like medicine and education.

In many parts of Europe, the government tries to foster competition by requiring that the companies that own the pipes carrying broadband to people’s homes lease space in their pipes to rival companies. (That policy is based on the work of Jean Tirole, who won the Nobel Prize in economics this month in part for his work on regulation and communications networks.)

In the United States, the Federal Communications Commission in 2002 reclassified high-speed Internet access as an information service, which is unregulated, rather than as telecommunications, which is regulated. Its hope was that Internet providers would compete with one another to provide the best networks. That didn’t happen. The result has been that they have mostly stayed out of one another’s markets.

Unforeseen consequences is often the excuse offered by the corporate pimps in government. Whether getting direct kickbacks – “campaign donations” – or being obedient little trolls while awaiting the promised job opening in private industry, ain’t much to be gained by working on behalf of us ordinary working folks.

New America’s ranking of cities by average speed for broadband priced between $35 and $50 a month, the top three cities, Seoul, Hong Kong and Paris, offered speeds 10 times faster than the United States cities. In my neck of the prairie I have the choice of two of the national ISP’s. One gets me 26mbps download max for $75 all in. Their “competitor” charges about half that amount – for 7mbps.

Competition American style.

Thanks, Mike

Here there be cables!

Click to enlarge

Undersea cable maps are for the deeply nerdy, but Telegeography has just produced one that’s beautiful and functional. Plus it shows we’re only using about 36 percent of the purchased capacity.

Telegeography, the research firm tracking underground cables and IP transit costs around the world has published the latest version of its submarine cable map, and it’s, well, beautiful. I have one of these (it’s next to my spectrum chart) but the old map is pretty functional, showing the cables, their capacity, owners and their landing spots. It’s a visual reminder that the internet is grounded in some very physical infrastructure.

From Telegeography: The design of our new map was inspired by antique maps and star charts, and alludes to the historic connection between submarine cables and cartography. We drew inspiration from a number of sources including Maury’s New Complete Geography (Revised Edition) published by American Book Company in 1921 and The Timechart History of the World, a collection of antique timelines published by Third Millennium Press.

This one might actually make it into a frame. The map shows the 232 lit cables as well as the 12 anticipated to come online before 2014. These cables connect countries to the internet, by providing connectivity so your emails from San Francisco can make it to Prague. After a huge boom in the 2000-2002 time frame construction on undersea cables pretty much halted, but in 2008 and 2009 new ones (financed in part by new players such as Google) were built.

Maps mostly contain more information than you ever expect. Cartographers must have cyberbrains.

Tomorrow morning – my blogging will be back to whatever passes for normal in my life

We will get our first walk in with Rally before dawn. The second right at dawn. A third about a half-hour after that – right after breakfast. This time of year, we try to get her walks in before temperatures start to climb.

Then, I can return to my usual blogging schedule here – and at the other blogs where I contribute.

I have been offline for nine hours or more. I’m just getting to bed and – peering into my study – realized the internet connection has come back up.

I don’t know if I should blame the gremlins who manage the interwebitubes at the local Comcast hub or not. I’ll call in the morning and cancel the scheduled tech visit. It took six phone calls – two of which were dropped because of the lame cell service we get from T-Mobile – running out to buy a new modem to try [which I have to return, tomorrow] to even get as far as scheduling a service call.

Looking forward to catching up with news, happenings, science, politics, opinion – and expressing my feelings online about it all.

Congressional lawmakers should review broadband data caps

Two Democratic lawmakers said Congress should examine whether major wireless carriers and cable companies are stifling the growth of online video services like Netflix Inc and Hulu by limiting the amount of content Internet subscribers can download each month…

“When you couple limited broadband competition with a strong desire to protect a legacy video distribution business, you have both the means and motivation to engage in anticompetitive behavior,” David Hyman, Netflix’s general counsel, told the House Commerce subcommittee on communications and technology…The Justice Department is investigating whether cable operators are improperly suppressing competition from Internet companies and online video services…

Cable operators are also the leading Internet service providers, prompting worry that they could be trying to discourage their video product subscribers from jumping ship for cheaper, Internet-based viewing options.

Michael Powell, head of the National Cable and Telecommunications Association, argued that data caps and tiered, usage-based pricing were simply about fairness, blah, blah, blah.

It ain’t like Comcast is going to starve – even after it finishes shelling out the billions they just spent on buying NBC-Universal. CableCo/TelCo ISP’s launch upgrades at higher prices all the time. Verizon just started offering 200mbps in the Bay Area for $210 a month. Locally-owned ISP’s like WebPass of San Francisco matched them without even raising their usual charge for 100mbps price – which is less than $50 a month.

That doesn’t get me a tenth of the horsepower from Comcast. And I have only one other choice – ADSL from CenturyLink which putters along barely fast enough to load the graphics from the average news site.

Singapore, Stockholm atop Networked Societies Index

Singapore topped the Networked Society City Index… The NSCI Index [.pdf] looks at how 25 major cities are using technologies to grow and manage themselves. The index shows that cities which put technology to use more effectively are the ones that have a better grip on “environmental management, infrastructure, public security, health-care quality and education.”

The study lauds Brazil’s Sao Paulo as an up-and-coming city that has used technology very effectively. The impact of mobile too cannot be underscored, the study finds.

They improve access to people, in particular family and relatives, but also help people make and save money. Mobile services, particularly in low-earning segments, enable people to become more entrepreneurial. They can increase profits by, for instance, cutting out middlemen when selling their harvests, and save money by avoiding lengthy travel…

It is part of a larger trend of putting technology to work outside the realm of corporations. The productivity revolution’s first beneficiaries were big companies, and now we beginning to see schools, consumers and even governments start to think about technology as a productivity enhancement tool.

While productivity in the business sense is about maximizing profits, productivity from a civic perspective is about better resource management. As we become more networked and our devices can generate data, we can start to look at a future where technology tries to reduce waste.

The process is a dialectic – or can become one when more than one side of the equation participates. There is a PBS special starting to appear this weekend which compares existing broadband in the Netherlands, the UK and the United States – and what the next directions of growth will be. Where there is the political will.

Currently, the Netherlands enjoys broadband on average 20 times faster than the United States. They are plowing fiber-optic into the ground as fast as possible to increase those speeds another 20-fold. The short film also examines the path in the UK from 2 non-competitive sources for Web access to hundreds of choices and the concurrent growth in speed. Companies like AT&T and Vodafone – which support the UK model in the UK – works as hard as they can in the United States to stifle competition, expansion and faster speeds outside of their own managed systems.

So, how fast are speeds growing in your neck of the prairie? What are your friendly neighborhood politicians doing to hasten access to really big internet pipes? Do they even mention expansion of business opportunities derived from real broadband?

100 Mbps everywhere with Comcast – and sufficient money!

It has been a long time coming, but now an average broadband subscriber in the U.S. can sign-up for a 100 Mbps broadband connection. Comcast, the largest cable (and broadband) company said Thursday it’s launching Extreme 105 across its entire footprint, which covers 40 million homes in cities such as San Francisco, Seattle; Chicago; Miami; Washington, D.C.; Philadelphia; and the majority of Boston.

To be sure, companies such as Cablevision provide 100 Mbps connections in its region (New York), but Comcast is making it available at a national level. Forecasts have indicated we could have 100 million homes with 100 Mbps by 2015, and with Thursday’s news, we’re pretty close to that target now. That should make the FCC pretty happy.

Now, it’s not cheap: about $105 a month for the broadband connection if you sign up for a triple-play plan, where other services cost extra. The standalone price is pretty darn steep — $199 a month — which I think is a shame. Comcast should have sold this at a more affordable price….A Comcast spokesperson says that their 250 GB cap applies to this super-fast broadband connection as well…

Netflix, Hulu, AppleTV, Spotify and Pandora make up most of my [Om’s] digital content diet. When it comes to work, it’s now all in the “cloud” via Google Docs and Gmail. With higher bandwidth, the experience of all these services has improved for me. With Comcast making the higher speeds available nationwide, the upside is going to be for all these streaming services.I predict they will see a big bump in usage.

It’s a shame Comcast is initiating this service as if it was 2007 and the Great Recession hadn’t happened, yet. Anyone on a fixed income has been spending the last few years cutting back – not expanding their discretionary bump.

At the moment it feels like I have an increase in download/streaming speed with my much less expensive Comcast broadband. That may be a temporary side effect while they tune and tweak the changes they’ve made. I was getting upload speeds comparable to download for spell while they engaged their throttling system and that has settled down to a 5mbps maximum.