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FCC Admits Mistakes In Measuring Broadband Competition

Zonk posted more than 7 years ago | from the admitting-there-is-a-problem-is-the-first-step dept.

United States 130

techdirtfeed writes "For years, plenty of folks (including the Government Accountability Office) have been pointing out that the way the FCC measures broadband competition is very flawed. It simply assumes that if a single household in a zip code is offered broadband by provider A, then every household in that zip code can get broadband from provider A. See the problem? For some reason the FCC still hasn't changed its ways, but at least they're starting to realize the problem. They're now saying they need to change the way they measure competition. Commissioner Michael Copps points out: 'Our statistical methodology seems almost calculated to obscure just how far our country is falling behind many other industrialized nations in broadband availability, adoption, speed and price.'"

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130 comments

Other countries probably do the same thing (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18804161)

I'm sure that in other places they count it the same way... or perhaps even worse.

Isn't the Zip code unusually large (5, Insightful)

grahamsz (150076) | more than 7 years ago | (#18804275)

In my parents postal code (in scotland) there are 11 homes, the exchange is less than a thousand feet from any of them so they all qualify for roughly the same speed of DSL.

My zip code in colorado probably has several thousand homes. I have three broadband options (DSL, Cable, Wireless) but I wouldn't be surprised to know there were people in my zip who couldn't get any.

If the FCC switched to using ZIP+4 then it would probably be a much more accurate and comparable method.

Re:Isn't the Zip code unusually large (1)

AvitarX (172628) | more than 7 years ago | (#18804331)

So they call everybody?

That doesn't sound that reasonable to me at all.

Re:Isn't the Zip code unusually large (4, Informative)

Copid (137416) | more than 7 years ago | (#18804461)

So they call everybody?

That doesn't sound that reasonable to me at all.
They should be able to provide a list of addresses or phone numbers to the broadband provider and have that provider say yay or nay. That's how you do it on the broadband providers' web sites as it is. All the regulatory agency has to do is give a more granular list for the provider to check against in their database, and then randomly sample the results to ensure that the provider didn't make a mistake or lie to them. That sounds pretty reasonable to me.

Re:Isn't the Zip code unusually large (1)

AvitarX (172628) | more than 7 years ago | (#18804497)

Damn, you are so much smarter than me. Thanks for pointing out that I am idiot.

You are right, clearly the providers have a very goos idea of who does and does not have access (especialy DSL by phone number).

Re:Isn't the Zip code unusually large (2, Interesting)

Rukie (930506) | more than 7 years ago | (#18806635)

I'm living in an area where there is intermittent access. There are two broadband corporations here, RoadRunner, and Charter. Neither of which encroach in each others territory, so both of them FORCE you to buy their entire package for broadband internet. With basic cable, phone (had vonage, but 5 bucks cheaper with charter), and internet, the bill is about 100 bucks a month. Its ridiculous. There is NO competition ANYWHERE near here, because the providers stay out of each others territories. Its like a frickin Monopolistic agreement.

Re:Isn't the Zip code unusually large (1)

krowe (LinuxZealot) (1055996) | more than 7 years ago | (#18807957)

I think the term you meant to use was oligopoly.

Re:Isn't the Zip code unusually large (1)

Moridineas (213502) | more than 7 years ago | (#18804527)

If the FCC switched to using ZIP+4 then it would probably be a much more accurate and comparable method.

Well then, I can report 100% broadband penetration for my parent's home ZIP+4. (Seeing as their home ZIP+4 is exactly one address).

I'm pleased also that my current apartment ZIP+4 seems to have 100% penetration (12 apartments)--I'm not sure about the other half of the building though, that's an entirely different zip+4!

Long and short is that ZIP+4 does not cover a lot of addresses--can be a single address, a single PO box, etc.

Re:Isn't the Zip code unusually large (1)

corsec67 (627446) | more than 7 years ago | (#18804683)

That is the point, to make the unit of area for binning the % brodband capabilities smaller than many square miles, something smaller than counties that can be 10,416 km (4,022 mi) (Weld County, CO). I don't think Weld county is the largest county, it is just one that impresses me as being big, such that you could be 50 miles from the nearest big town, or near Denver, in the same county.

Re:Isn't the Zip code unusually large (2, Insightful)

Moridineas (213502) | more than 7 years ago | (#18804753)

But you're still missing the point. Ok, great, now you've got finer granularity, but it's still totally imprecise! One zip+4 can be an abandoned lot, a single household, multiple houses, or a highrise apartment complex. The data is equally meaningless except now you've got a lot more ZIP+4s to look at than you do ZIPs.

i think it's much better at this point to measure who DOESN'T have broadband access. Let's do households, ACTUAL places where people live. How many residences don't have access?

Re:Isn't the Zip code unusually large (2, Interesting)

amRadioHed (463061) | more than 7 years ago | (#18806059)

No I think you are missing the point. The problem is that zip codes alone are too big. Someone one one side of a zip code may have access to DSL while someone on the other side may not have any broadband access. They are currently assuming that if anyone in a zip code has broadband access everyone does. I imagine the number of entire areas without any broadband is far far less than the number of zip code areas that just have spotty coverage.

Also this is just as problematic when gaging competition. Just because the people on the west side of a region have one ISP and the people on the east side have another ISP doesn't mean there is competition.

The smaller zip codes would certainly take care of both these problems since these zip+4's in rural areas that only consist of a house or two will be much more likely to actually reflect whether or not these people have broadband.

Re:Isn't the Zip code unusually large (1)

Moridineas (213502) | more than 7 years ago | (#18806211)

Yes, I understand that perfectly. What I am saying is that whether you say "95% of zipcodes has broadband" or "83% of ZIP+4 regions has broad" still doesn't tell me how many people have/don't have access to broadband. Going by residences would be more complicated, but would be more accurate.

The ISPs seem to already have this info--i mean, you can go to their website and type in your address--not your ZIP, not your ZIP+4--and find out if there is availability. Let's just have that info reported to the govt.

Re:Isn't the Zip code unusually large (1)

superpulpsicle (533373) | more than 7 years ago | (#18807597)

The FCC is on the same boat as the cable companies. You'll hear them say "We have a slow ass network", but nothing will ever be done about it. It is fact. This the like the 600th article on this subject.

We are useless sheeps shelling out $40 a month for broadband. It will remain this way for the next few years until they jack our price to $70 a month. At that point the cable companies will send you an email for upgrading your speed from 380K upload to 500k upload.

Re:Isn't the Zip code unusually large (1)

c_sd_m (995261) | more than 7 years ago | (#18806501)

Forgive my lack of American knowledge but would there not be someone somewhere who knows what these ZIP+5 codes correspond to? Perhaps in the public domain or hands of the government? If I look up a Canadian postal code I can get the list of addresses corresponding to it. Surely finer granularity coupled with information like "number of units" would give a better, although still less than ideal, estimate? IMHO, this problem is just begging for a decent geographic information system (think database with geographic attributes and analytical capabilities). Nice little georeferenced polygons (zip codes or whatever) with attributes maybe some points representing the information that's actually known. Not quite yet, we'll need to centralize the data, but I can check the elevation on a new build lot in my city whenever I feel like it or see which houses on my street have permits to build decks. Oh, and GIS people are used to dealing with scale issues including problems just like this one.

Re:Isn't the Zip code unusually large (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18809123)

Forgive my lack of American knowledge but would there not be someone somewhere who knows what these ZIP+5 codes correspond to?

I'm sorry, I'm trying to understand your question here.

Did you mean a website that provides zip code information and statistics [city-data.com] such as what's 90210 [city-data.com] like?

Or did you mean a site that explained what a zip code+4 [wikipedia.org] is?

I'm genuinely asking, not being a smart ass. The links are provided to answer the question if that's actually what you meant.

Re:Isn't the Zip code unusually large (1)

madhattr (179377) | more than 7 years ago | (#18805965)

I live in a very urban area of N Portland OR (15 min bike ride from one of the main exchanges for Portland). This area in called the Silicon Forest. Intel, IBM, Veritas, and OSDL are here to name a few. I only have Cable, and dial up access in my area. At 7PM at night it is so slow. I called Quest to inquire about possible DSL in my area, and they have told me that I am too far away from the CO, and they have no plans to upgrade my area. My co-worker lives in Gresham and has Fios. My other coworker lives in the country about a 20 min drive outside of Woodburn and has DSL. There is no competition in my area for access.

Re:Isn't the Zip code unusually large (1)

MasaMuneCyrus (779918) | more than 7 years ago | (#18805999)

Just use this U.S. zip code map to see how large one zip code can be:
http://www.usnaviguide.com/zip.htm [usnaviguide.com]

Places in the plains, or less populated states have especially large zip-codes, and places like Wyoming just have weird zip codes.

Re:Isn't the Zip code unusually large (1)

palmpunk (324912) | more than 7 years ago | (#18806493)

Zip codes are for mail delivery. Zip+4 tells the sorting machines what order to put the mail carrier's stacks of letters in. No part of zip codes have to do with geography or really even population density. It is purely for the mail sorting machines.

Re:Isn't the Zip code unusually large (1)

bhalter80 (916317) | more than 7 years ago | (#18807125)

In my parent's zip code DSL became available no later than 1998 but that was a very small section of the town, they weren't able to get anything past 26.4k dial up until 2002 when Comcast got their act together and offered 3Mbit service. The surprising part is that this was in an affluent suburban town about 20 miles from Boston.

The telcos can tell me as a matter of fact if they can provide me service and to what level immediately when I call to order service, why doesn't the FCC require this level of detail as its already available.

Every commissioner is (1, Troll)

zoomshorts (137587) | more than 7 years ago | (#18805237)

a Bush Appointee, does that tell you anything?

Re:Other countries probably do the same thing (1)

telso (924323) | more than 7 years ago | (#18805299)

Some countries have a national statistics agency [statcan.ca] that is in charge of setting standards for methodology for things like this [statcan.ca] . Some countries statistical agencies regularly get rated as the best statistical agency in the world [wikipedia.org] . And some countries get a patchwork of statistics, completely non-standardized across departments and set up by partisan appointees in the pocket of big business. Thank God you guys believe that the Federal Government can't do anything right (I'm not implying they can).

Re:Other countries probably do the same thing (1)

Nefarious Wheel (628136) | more than 7 years ago | (#18805527)

I thought it was Australia who was falling behind? Maybe it's all of us? Just who's in charge of setting the speed of that rabbit all us dogs are chasing?

Re:Other countries probably do the same thing (1)

cheater512 (783349) | more than 7 years ago | (#18805625)

Australia is getting better competition these days with ISPs rolling out their own ADSL networks.

We can get ADSL 2+ (24Mbit) in some areas.
They dont cover my suburb atm but they cover the suburb next to me. :(

Re:Other countries probably do the same thing (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18808521)

In metropolitan Sydney, Telstra guarantees a 0.0096Mbps connection. That's it. Everything else (cable, DSL, faster modem links) are completely the luck of the draw. And if you aren't lucky, there's no recourse to competition for the vast majority of users.

Telstra: bringing you yesterday's technology, tomorrow.

Seems eh... (4, Funny)

Adambomb (118938) | more than 7 years ago | (#18804175)

So, that would make them the most naive member of the FCC they had? or is she just good at acting surprised...

I look forward to the restructuring of the FCC after this where they purge the evil and the misguided statistics....because i'm absolutely sure that will happen.

and no, i'm definitely not being sarcastic. at all.

Re:Seems eh... (0)

Adambomb (118938) | more than 7 years ago | (#18804193)

Gah, s/she/he/

Re:Seems eh... (1)

WrongSizeGlass (838941) | more than 7 years ago | (#18804357)

Ice Cream has no bones
What is "how many frogs will be in your oven", Alex?

Re:Seems eh... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18804873)

Haha! Someone wasted a mod point on that post! And they probably will on this one too. Hehe.

It's worse than naïveté... (1)

Kuma-chang (1035190) | more than 7 years ago | (#18806449)


...Copps is a Democratic commissioner in a Republican administration. Which means there's very little he can do about it (although his position has improved considerably after the midterm elections). Copps has been railing about this problem for years. The news in this story is that Kevin Martin, the Republican FCC chairman, finally admitted that the data the FCC has been collecting is worthless.

I look forward to the restructuring of the FCC after this where they purge the evil and the misguided statistics....because i'm absolutely sure that will happen.

It will happen, but you may have to wait until early 2009...

Plan B (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18804197)

Switch to Area Code

Re:Plan B (1)

HolyCrapSCOsux (700114) | more than 7 years ago | (#18804533)

The state I live in has 2 area codes, Clark County (702), and The rest of Nevada(775). I think that would be worse.

Re:Plan B (2, Funny)

Lockejaw (955650) | more than 7 years ago | (#18804737)

The house I live in has two area codes [wikipedia.org] . I think this could be fun.

Could be Worse... (1)

Chr0me (180627) | more than 7 years ago | (#18804759)

New Mexico still only has one, 505(they have said we would get 575 or something, but i don't know of anyone who has one, yet).

Here in New Zealand... (1)

EmbeddedJanitor (597831) | more than 7 years ago | (#18805087)

Area codes can be huge. The whole of NZ South Island is one area code.

Re:Plan B (1)

Duggeek (1015705) | more than 7 years ago | (#18805473)

So, I'm in the Metropolitan Denver area, where we have no less than two area codes for the entire Metropolitan region. (303/720) We have to dial 10 digits for every call. (aaa-ppp-xxxx) There is no geographical distinction between them, so how would they make the survey any more accurate?

Add to that, the distinctive phenomenon where folks are living land-line-free. Not just owning a mobile phone, but using it as their only voice communication service. (myself included)

Let's get the FCC to bite the bullet and actually investigate the matter, rather than sit on their duffs and play guessing games from the groundwork of the postal service.

Re:Plan B (1)

jbo5112 (154963) | more than 7 years ago | (#18806729)

If they used the area code and the prefix (second set of 3 digits) that would work better, but you're still left with some problems. Rural areas would still have a large amount of land covered by the same prefix, not all of which would be within range for DSL, and cell phone prefixes have little to do with your location. Also, fiber has to be run all the way to your door. There isn't any pre-existing infrastructure that can be used.

one problem (2, Insightful)

wizardforce (1005805) | more than 7 years ago | (#18804219)

If they handle broadband internet monopolies like they do Microsoft it won't matter if their methods are flawed.

Re:one problem (1)

mabhatter654 (561290) | more than 7 years ago | (#18804335)

Sounds like they're doing just that.. slap them on the wrist then give them more big contracts without even demanding they stop doing what was bad!

Mobile Broadband (5, Insightful)

Tofystedeth (1076755) | more than 7 years ago | (#18804231)

from TFA

mobile broadband is only allowed for very limited applications (no video, no streaming, no downloads, no VoIP, etc.)
What else does that leave? Http? I mean, when you get rid of all the stuff in that statementm, and account for a few more with the '.etc', there isn't much else you can do. I suppose maybe telnet? That is of course ignoring the fact that simply saying "no downloads" completely eliminates most everything.

Re:Mobile Broadband (1)

jhfry (829244) | more than 7 years ago | (#18804327)

You can supply personal information (uploads) to telemarketers who will then call you on your phone!

Maybe, the government could even use it to spy on your calls!

That's what we really need broadband for anyway right? Our own protection from terrorists?

Re:Mobile Broadband (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18804859)

Oh stop whining. This is no problem at all as long as you only send UDP packets with forged headers so there's no return traffic. Plus, since I'm charged by the number of bytes transferred, effectively disabling the ability to receive data saves me a lot of money each month! In short, disabling downloads is actually a benefit to the consumer of the fine and generous services. I don't know what you're complaining about.

I hope you're not insinuating that maybe the company doesn't know what's best for you?!!

so yeas (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18804235)

To answer your question, your agency does suck donkey balls...

To measure competition properly (2, Funny)

Timesprout (579035) | more than 7 years ago | (#18804297)

There should be a service provider olympics. Winner is the one who does best in most events, subject to drug testing.

FCC should know its place (3, Insightful)

pwizard2 (920421) | more than 7 years ago | (#18804319)

The FCC should definitely be restructured and be given a refresher course of its mission... it was originally created to govern communication frequency allocation, and that's where it should stay. It should not be acting like an unofficial censorship bureau and/or advocate to the MPAA; it should be neutral on those issues.

Re:FCC should know its place (3, Insightful)

TubeSteak (669689) | more than 7 years ago | (#18805181)

The FCC ... was originally created to govern communication frequency allocation, and that's where it should stay. It should not be acting like an unofficial censorship bureau
Their job is to regulate the spectrum in the public's interest. If the public complains about [sex/language/violence/other] on the public spectrum, then isn't it the FCC's job to regulate [X]?

I assert that "no regulation" isn't a viable option, so what's the alternative? Non-government regulation? How is a non-government organization accountable to the people?

What's your alternative?

Re:FCC should know its place (1)

jidar (83795) | more than 7 years ago | (#18806455)

Assertion failed: ("no regulation" isn't a viable option), from slashdot.org/comment.c

Re:FCC should know its place (2, Insightful)

MaceyHW (832021) | more than 7 years ago | (#18805797)

Only on /. would this comment be regarded as 'insightful' in a discussion of the methodologies of determining broadband penetration.

Re:FCC should know its place (3, Interesting)

SonicSpike (242293) | more than 7 years ago | (#18806927)

The FCC is a bit sticky because really it isn't authorized to exist in Article I Section 8 of the US Constitution. Legally all RF spectrum management should be reserved to the States. However I do realize that would create utter chaos, and I might could see how RF spectrum management might be able to be stretched to fit the "interstate commerce clause".

Nevertheless, the ONLY function of the FCC would be spectrum management. And by this I mean deciding what services are on what freqs etc ensuring the local radio station doesn't trample aviation or military communications etc. The FCC should NOT be involved in any content decisions, telcom decisions, land-line anything, or anything that is not directly involved with the RF spectrum.

Gonzales Resignation Betting Pool: +1, Fun (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18804361)

Odds:

Gonzales [whitehouse.org] resigns on Friday, April 20, 2007 10-1

Gonzales resigns before "President" George W. Bush [whitehouse.org] attacks Iran: 2-1

Bush resigns before Gonzales: 100-1

Gonzales declares martial law in the United Gulags 0f America before Jan. 1, 2009: 4-1

Wageringly yours,
Kilgore Trout, C.E.O.

Excuse my ignorance... (1)

truthsearch (249536) | more than 7 years ago | (#18804385)

but why do they even measure these things at all?

I'm not trying to troll. I just don't see the point.

Re:Excuse my ignorance... (0, Troll)

Moridineas (213502) | more than 7 years ago | (#18804567)

For slashdotters to whine about :-)

Why measure GDP etc too? (2, Insightful)

EmbeddedJanitor (597831) | more than 7 years ago | (#18805163)

Some of this is pure ego-rubbing (We've got the biggest cars, aircraft carriers,...), but I suspect this is mostly used for lobbying purposes and used as "evidence" to underline some irrational argument.

Our kids are falling behind in math. Well, what do you expect if there is such low broadband? Lets start "No kid left on dial up"!

If US had huge broadband uptake, it would be bandied about to show that current policies are working.

The facts are unimportant. They are just anchors for the spin.

Re:Excuse my ignorance... (1)

edward2020 (985450) | more than 7 years ago | (#18805661)

Some of this data could be used for oversight purposese. Remember the law which gave telecomms $ in order to bring broadband to rural areas?

Why measure it? Unbundled acces to the local loop (1)

Kuma-chang (1035190) | more than 7 years ago | (#18806683)


but why do they even measure these things at all?

Have we all forgotten the debate over opening access to the local loop to competition for DSL service? This was supposed to be one of the premises of the 1996 Telecom Act. The FCC initially implemented this, unbundling DSL service, allowing CLEC's to compete over the incumbents' phone lines. But the incumbents fought tooth and nail in the courts and found a receptive audience in certain anti-regulatory judges on the D.C. Circuit Federal Appeals Court. The FCC repeatedly had to redraft the rules, and the whole thing dragged out until the Bush administration came in at which point the FCC just gave up on unbundling the local loop, claiming that there was plenty of competition in the broadband internet market and there was no need for the FCC to mandate line sharing. This was, of course, bullshit. Few people in the US have more than two real options for broadband (and many would count themselves lucky to have two). The zip code data collection system grossly inflates the number of broadband options available, providing a misleading picture of the state of broadband competition in the US. If they actually collected accurate data on competition it would quickly become apparent how badly misguided the decision to abandon unbundling was. And so there has been a pitched battle over data collection between Commissioner Copps (who supported unbundling and wants accurate data) and Chairman Martin (who is happy the crappy zip code system). It looks like Copps has gotten the upper hand...

Re:Excuse my ignorance... (2, Insightful)

DeepHurtn! (773713) | more than 7 years ago | (#18806853)

How can sound communication policy be formed without adequate information?

Re:Excuse my ignorance... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18807513)

Communications companies have been granted priviliges and monopolies in exchange for an expectation of serving the common good. For instance, being allowed to use the airwaves, which are owned by the public. The FCC is at least nominally supposed to monitor whether the companies are delivering on their expectations, so that if they are not, the priviliges can be revoked.

Slashdot editors are drunken Irishmen (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18804395)

'Our statistical methodology seems almost calculated to obscure just how far our country is falling behind many other industrialized nations in broadband availability, adoption, speed and price.'

This is terrible news. Now how will our children download ever-greater quantities of media?

Meanwhile, in Iraq: *BOOOOOOOOOOOOOM*

DSL only recently became available for me (4, Informative)

Rick17JJ (744063) | more than 7 years ago | (#18804437)

Until recently 26.4 K dial-up was all that was available where I live. Neither broadband cable or DSL was available and even 56K dial-up was not available (just 26.4K). Then a few months ago DSL finally became available and I now can download at 1.5 MBs and upload at about 800 K. The 26.4K was such a pain when I was taking several college classes that had lots of graphics intensive online study material. Security updates for Windows and Linux sometimes took hours to download.

I live in a small city in Arizona, but am not in a rural area. Most people in my Zip code did have cable and in some also had DSL available, but not where I live.

Re:DSL only recently became available for me (1)

Deliveranc3 (629997) | more than 7 years ago | (#18808729)

1.)Buy WRT54G
2.)Give to Neighbor.
3.)Profit.

Nielsen puts our internet penetration at 6th (1)

Rotten168 (104565) | more than 7 years ago | (#18804439)

In the world (or something like that), it seems that doing a statistically random poll is a more accurate representation than the way the FCC does it anyway. Why do Zonk, kdawson, and the rest of the mental midgets at Slashdot obsess about this issue anyway? It's not as if broadband penetration means much of anything, if those who want to use it can use it at work anyway.

Re:Nielsen puts our internet penetration at 6th (1)

ScrewMaster (602015) | more than 7 years ago | (#18806803)

It's not as if broadband penetration means much of anything, if those who want to use it can use it at work anyway.

Uh ... what?

Don't forget (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18804471)

Your friendly local city government gets to decide whether competing cable companies are allowed to operate in your area, and gets to dictate the terms under which they can do business. Fortunately, the regulations you lot support will quickly enough ensure that there are no new entrants to an over-regulated market, thus rendering that power moot.

Re:Don't forget (2, Insightful)

stinerman (812158) | more than 7 years ago | (#18804999)

Nice troll.

I worked on an advisory board regarding cable regulation. Here are the facts (Ohio-centric):

Any cable company can come in and negotiate with the city to use their rights-of-way. You would expect the cable company would have to pay to use the government property right? Or are you in the habit of just giving large businesses whatever they want? Part of the agreement to use this property is customer service standards as well as other quality assurance issues. In fact, if you have an unresolved problem that the cable company won't do anything about, go to your next cable advisory board meeting; they'll be glad to help. Your cable company will get on the ball because they don't want to lose that contract.

That being said, most cities have a natural monopoly with respect to cable. Most cities only have 1 provider because a second provider would take a loss if they put in the infrastructure. Think of it this way: would you like to be the only widget salesman in the area or would you like to compete with lots of widget salesmen?

Don't take my word for it. Go to your next city council meeting and find out what one would have to do to offer alternative cable service in your area.

Re:Don't forget (2, Interesting)

petermgreen (876956) | more than 7 years ago | (#18806999)

That being said, most cities have a natural monopoly with respect to cable.
Last mile communications infrastructure is a natural monopoly.

The only reason many places (and this is hardly specific to the USA) have a duopoloy rather than a monopoly on last mile communications infrastruture is because of a combination of government regulation and the fact that in the pre-digital era TV had very different wiring needs from telephone.

The soloution is obvious but hard to force through with lots of lobbyists arround. The provision of last mile communication service needs to be decoupled from the provision of content service and long distance communication service. The provision of last mile service should be done by either government (preferablly as local governement as possible) or a highly regulated buisness. Provision of content and long distance communications service should be a competitive market.

Re:Don't forget (1)

Nwallins (1059978) | more than 7 years ago | (#18808539)

Last mile communications infrastructure is a natural monopoly.

The only reason many places (and this is hardly specific to the USA) have a duopoloy rather than a monopoly on last mile communications infrastruture is because of a combination of government regulation and the fact that in the pre-digital era TV had very different wiring needs from telephone.

The soloution is obvious but hard to force through with lots of lobbyists arround. The provision of last mile communication service needs to be decoupled from the provision of content service and long distance communication service. The provision of last mile service should be done by either government (preferablly as local governement as possible) or a highly regulated buisness. Provision of content and long distance communications service should be a competitive market.
Exactly. Wish I had mod points...

Re:Don't forget (1)

stinerman (812158) | more than 7 years ago | (#18808713)

No argument from me there. I was stating the facts as they are.

Cable lines are owned by the cable company, so in order to implement that plan the states or feds would have to use imminent domain to buy those lines and then regulate them.

I'd be very happy with government-owned lines with equal access being manditory. This ILEC/CLEC stuff is a joke. I've found myself victim to using a CLEC for DSL. When the physical lines were bad, I had to wait for the ILEC to take its sweet old time to get service restored.

unless (1)

ncohafmuta (577957) | more than 7 years ago | (#18804487)

the only way their previous formula would hold true is if everybody in the zip code created a huge wireless network off the first customer's broadband wireless router. obviously not plausible as then everybody's connection wouldn't be at or above the 200 kb/s required to call it broadband.
i wonder if the percentage of usage that is deemed fraudulent (next door neighbor stealing your internet) will factor into any new formulas they come out with?

-Tony

Oh noes! (0, Flamebait)

Quiet_Desperation (858215) | more than 7 years ago | (#18804543)

Our statistical methodology seems almost calculated to obscure just how far our country is falling behind many other industrialized nations in broadband availability, adoption, speed and price.'"

So? Does anyone outside Evil Marketing Overlords who want to push broadband paid content even care?

Besides, I have 15 Mbps fiber at my house. Who cares what anyone else has. :)

Re:Oh noes! (1)

Chandon Seldon (43083) | more than 7 years ago | (#18806849)

Is that Verizon "15 meg down / 2 up" FiOS? If so, have fun trying to do anything interesting with it.

Re:Oh noes! (1)

Jorgandar (450573) | more than 7 years ago | (#18808995)

Hey! WOW is plenty interesting. :P

Zip Codes aren't polygons (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18804573)

Zip Codes can be very irregular sometimes, jumping streets, including one house in a nearby neighborhood, things like that. This erratic behavior can lead to depression and eventually call for medication of which no doctor can prescribe.

Yeah (2, Insightful)

Znrch (966486) | more than 7 years ago | (#18804629)

I'm from a medium-to-large sized agricultural city in California. While people within the city limits can get broadband fairly easily, it took several years of prodding to even get a technician/installer out to my parent's house. Their house, in the county, is about 50-60 feet off the street. They finally got a guy to come out, but the service is absolutely horrible. Someone mentioned doing it by area codes I think. I don't know what it's like elsewhere, but here area codes cover a larger area than zip codes. Then you'd have worse problems trying to get an accurate sampling.

YOU FAIL IT!! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18804647)

as t0 which *BSD

Next look at cell phones pls ok thx. (1)

griffjon (14945) | more than 7 years ago | (#18804787)

Once we clear the issue of broadband providers up, can we move on to cell phones? The US market is even further behind the rest of the world there.

Re:Next look at cell phones pls ok thx. (1)

Not_Wiggins (686627) | more than 7 years ago | (#18805859)

The US market is even further behind the rest of the world there.

That's because we led the world in cabled-connections; we had land-lines everywhere.

China (for example), when it started to build out its telecommunications infrastructure, was able to choose cellular because it hadn't heavily invested in anything yet.

Expect to see a similar "falling behind" in the future when the next generation of communication comes out to replace cellular. Whomever has the least invested in cellular will rapidly adopt new technology X.

Then... rinse, repeat for technology Y some time after that.

Good (1)

UPZ (947916) | more than 7 years ago | (#18804797)

The first step is admitting there exists a problem..

Money money money (3, Interesting)

spaceyhackerlady (462530) | more than 7 years ago | (#18804811)

I'm always amazed at just how much broadband costs in the U.S. No wonder the FCC thinks nobody wants it!

I get ADSL from the phone company for $CDN 34.95 a month. They sent me a new DSL modem that's supposed to go twice as fast (the usual residential ADSL offering is 1.5 MBPS), but I haven't found any sites with big enough pipes to see the difference. I'm close enough to the central office to go a lot faster if I wanted to pay for it.

I have family who live out in the country. Until recently they suffered through 56k dialup that rarely connected above 28.8. Now they have satellite broadband, and pay about what I do, per person (my Mum and my sister share a connection).

...laura, well-connected Canadian Linux and Mac user

Re:Money money money (1)

Sentry21 (8183) | more than 7 years ago | (#18805195)

I can second this. I've got cable internet through the cable company, running me $74.95 for 10 megabit (unmetered). My former roommate is working with a local ISP on rolling out ADSL2+, which would give 24 megabit (theoretically) for about $40/mo, give or take (depending on distance from the CO). Better than most prices I've seen in the US. I happened to check another cable provider (for another locality), and their best offering is 25 megabit for $93/mo, with 150G download limit. Not bad.

My parents live in a small town in Saskatchewan, and as well, they used to have dial-up at best, though recently they've switched to satellite-backed WiFi that a local ISP set up in their area. They pay less than I do, much closer to the parent's quoted price, for a pretty decent connection.

As for maxing out one's pipe, I'd suggest downloading one of the demos available of the Adobe CS package (e.g. the Photoshop CS3 Demo, if there is one). Downloading the CS2 demo got me a reported 1.1MB/s in Safari, which is the theoretical maximum of my connection.

Re:Money money money (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18805949)

Come to Britain and enjoy our expensive broadband. I pay £18 a month for 2mbit cable (300k up) but for the majority of the past 6 years it was £26 for 600/128. I could get 10meg for £36 a month though, woo. Dunno what that is in Canadian dollars but it's US$36/$73 respectively. I'm in the lucky percentage of the country that gets cable, otherwise it is DSL... compare that to Sweden with their 100mb broadband for pennies :(

As a secondary point, Hi Laura.

Re:Money money money (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18805991)

>Until recently they suffered through 56k dialup that rarely connected above 28.8. Now they have satellite broadband, and pay about what I do, per person (my Mum and my sister share a connection).

??? I am interested to hear about this. I ran a satellite store in Canada a couple of years ago, and back then the only viable option was ExpressVu's now defunct DirecPC Canada service at $100/GB (yes, that's one hundred dollars per GB). The cheapest service at the time was from a US provider, Nebulink, at about $7.95/GB or something of that sort. Of course, the US service was technically illegal in Canada since they had no broadcast rights in Canada, and it was IPSec encrypted, IIRC (Service from other countries that is encrypted must be approved by the Canadian government before it is legal to decrypt here. Unfortunately, that includes data service since the original 1991 rules on satellite service were very vague and had to be "interpreted" to make decrypting US satellite TV illegal [paid or pirate]).

I do recall a company local to me offering "unlimited" (my ass) satellite internet for $80 a month at one point, but they lasted all of about 8 months.

Re:Money money *disgruntled US broadband user* (1)

jbo5112 (154963) | more than 7 years ago | (#18807311)

I was on a chat site where someone frome SE Asia made a comment about the internet service they had: 100Mb Ethernet! For 5 years, I paid $50/month for 5Mb download and 384kb upload (aside from an occasional discount when moving)! After 5 years, I finally got moved up to 7Mb download and 512kb upload, and for another $10/month I can upgrade to 10Mb download and unknown upload. Woo Hoo :(. I'm sure they do bandwidth throttling on some sites because it's not unusual for me to have trouble streaming videos from Google or YouTube, and it was a huge mess when they upped the speed around Christmas. (anyone offer any input on that?)

In the same amount of time, Ethernet has gone from being able to get an 8-port 100Mb switch for ~$100 (don't remember for sure what I paid) to getting a 5-port for $16 or 8-port for $40. I wish the FCC would get their facts straight about broadband, so they could know how much the US offerings suck!

Why should my ISP be able to throttle and charge websites for me using MY bandwidth anyway? I've already bought it from them. It's my bandwidth! I paid for it! I have the bills to prove it's mine! Since we're a free country with a free market, I'll just cancel my Time Warner Roadrunner service and go to the competition, Time Warner's Roadrunner Turbocharged! *sigh* ...goes looking for better access...Roadrunner Business Class *DOH!!* :(

Re:Money money money (1)

ghyd (981064) | more than 7 years ago | (#18807715)

"but I haven't found any sites with big enough pipes to see the difference"

I've found quite a few moments when a high speed Internet is really welcome: fresh Windows install, torrents, graphic card drivers, updates, softwares, games (lets say you want to download albatross18 or trackmania, they have good servers), files on ftp servers, watching TV. I'm not yet eagerly waiting for fiber optics, but I already really love the TV via ADSL (because I don't watch TV that much, and via ADSL most of my favorite broadcasts are freely on demand for a week or so) and 4 or 5 MBPS is a minimum -TV here is encoded in MPEG2 at 3MBPS-.

Bad crony (1)

wiredlogic (135348) | more than 7 years ago | (#18804855)

What kind of crony does this Michael Copps think he is if he readily admits governmental mistakes. He should look to Roberto Gonzales for direction in how to be an unquestioning lap dog.

USA 3rd tier country - baby bells, RIAA, MPAA (5, Insightful)

harvey the nerd (582806) | more than 7 years ago | (#18805013)

I blame RIAA, it members, MPAA, Disney as much for the collapse of WorldCom (all that *dark* fiber) and the re-emergence of the "baby" Bells and the other roads hogs. Some baby Bells, etc made state level agreements ~10 years ago that should have put them more on track for capacity and last mile if they had not reneged on the provisions of such agreements.
Yes, like Clinton, the third George's reign has helped make the world, er, country safe for our brand of state capitalism.

Re:USA 3rd tier country - baby bells, RIAA, MPAA (1)

EveLibertine (847955) | more than 7 years ago | (#18805609)

Wait, what? I am not particularly fond of any of the three entities that you mentioned in your post, but I think you should expound on your belief. I can't really tell how the RIAA, MPAA, and Disney could have forced WorldCom to commit massive accounting fraud [wikipedia.org] . Believe me, I would like to see the RIAA, MPAA, and Disney, as well as quite a few others go away, but blaming them willy-nilly for things that they don't really have connection to is detrimental to the cause.

behind because of government. (1)

k1e0x (1040314) | more than 7 years ago | (#18805065)

Our country is falling behind.. because of government sponsored telecom companies and the monopolies they are allowed to create.

Re:behind because of government. (1)

anagama (611277) | more than 7 years ago | (#18806267)

Re your Ron Paul sig:

From http://www.ronpaul2008.com/html/AboutRon_fx.html [ronpaul2008.com] :

He was an unwavering advocate of pro-life and pro-family values.

Code for just another religious right whack-job. When oh when will we get a socially progressive, financially conservative party -- one that believes in small government in all respects.

ron paul is an educated and responsible MD... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18809077)

in particular and ob/gyn, a baby and mommy doctor. As opposed to a lot of congress weasels who were/are lawyers and marketing and management type schmmoozers.

    He has delivered thousands of babies. He knows first hand that's a baby being killed in an abortion, despite the culturally suicidal-bent genocidalists who keep insisting it is just useless fetal tissue. I imagine that is why he has that opinion on the subject, he actually deals with it.

As to your other points, he fits the bill perfectly, and as an added bonus, he is for sound money (and dumping that damn useless parasite horde known as the Fed and bringing back just normal real lawful US money with no interest or strings attached) and non interventionist foreign policy. He is probably the strictest constitutionalist in congress and most likely the most honest as well. He stands for all "your" rights, all the time, in all the situations-including babies. It is a fairly consistent platform really.

Myself I am an old timey paleocon type, looking for the same sort of party, and near as I can see, ron paul comes to the closest to what the R party really should be. Most of the other R bozos are neocon traitorous globalists (there are a few exceptions, very few, mostly only at lower level grassroots levels), and as such I never vote R (nor D, third party or independent only), but I'll vote Ron Paul this time even if I have to write him in.

Really, do some research on him, find some audio interviews, see if you can see any of his testimony on the house floor, etc, listen to the man, you'll see, he's a pretty straight shooter as politicians go.

Politics is usually too complex to be a single issue voter-because you can't clone yourself and vote for yourself in every race. You have to pick the person who covers most of your bases for you-and you'll never get 100%, just isn't going to happen, any party or any candidate in any race.

Post offices occur in population centers. (1)

Ungrounded Lightning (62228) | more than 7 years ago | (#18806345)

Post offices are build in population centers. The zip codes correspond to presorting for post office and route within it. They tend to be organized as one of the following:
  1) A patch with a post office (in the local town or village) at the center.
  2) A set of pie wedges centered on a post office.
  3) A set of patches surrounded by a set of pie wedges.

So zip codes that include the under-served rural areas will almost invariably have a point, near the post office, in a city, town, village, or otherwise the most dense local population.

Thus the rural houses that are not served by broadband will generally still be counted as "served" unless the town where the associated post-office is located doesn't have broadband either. (Even then they may be counted as "served" if, say, the edge of the zip code is within range of a nearby city's phone system or WiMax tower.)

(I wonder if 89444 (Wellington NV - including Topaz Ranch Estates and parts of Antelope Valley, which are over a mountain pass from it) is counted as served, due to a house or two near the edge of their delivery area being within range of one of the two Clearwire towers in Gardnerville, or able to catch a bounce off the side of a mountain or a shot down a slot between two peaks? I know that my place out that way can only get dialup - and rarely connects at over 28k due to seven miles or so of line to the nearest T1 line bank.)

Re:Post offices occur in population centers. (1)

Ungrounded Lightning (62228) | more than 7 years ago | (#18806377)

1) A patch with a post office (in the local town or village) at the center.
    2) A set of pie wedges centered on a post office.
    3) A set of patches surrounded by a set of pie wedges.


And perhaps an extra zip code for the postal boxes - which include a mix of rural and local customers.

Re:Post offices occur in population centers. (1)

diavolomaestro (1090849) | more than 7 years ago | (#18808979)

I live in rural Vermont near the "decent-sized town" of Brattleboro (translation: population 10,000) where broadband is fairly widely available. My house is about fifteen minutes away from Brattleboro proper, and is technically in neighboring Halifax, but we're close enough that we have a Brattleboro ZIP code. This confuses a number of organizations--particularly Comcast, who in March suddenly began advertising their high-speed cable and internet services to us. I went on the website, typed in my address, and sure enough "my address" had been shown to be internet-accessible. I even called Comcast support and confirmed that I would be able to order Comcast service for my house. The technician was confident about this, though as I pointed out, he was merely typing my address into the lookup service on his company's website, just as I'd done earlier. I was excited to finally get cable, as previously we'd had the kind of dialup service where sometimes it would be cheaper just to buy the porn from the physical store.

There was only one problem with this: my house doesn't get cable. You can tell when your neighborhood is getting cable, especially out here in the woods: the cable truck comes along the road, and suddenly all the people who've only ever heard of the internet are telling all their friends about it. (In semaphore. Yeah, we're hardcore). There is no cable in my area, plain and simple.

So I wish that during the conversation I'd actually tried to order Comcast--just to see how far in the process I'd get. Would they realize their mistake? Or would I get a technician out here who'd get half-way through the installation before he figured out that there was no cable to connect anything to? It's sad when the FCC makes these assumptions. But when your own cable company makes them, that's downright embarrassing.

Not so simple (3, Informative)

cdrguru (88047) | more than 7 years ago | (#18806457)

Cable access is pretty simple. Either the provider offers it or they do not. For the most part, it is system-wide today and not a lot of areas have cable but no Internet connectivity through it.

DSL is not so simple. You need an unbroken copper pair from the CO to the house. Most newer subdivisions in Illinois use a fiber connection to a vault and then copper from the vault to the houses. There is no room in the vault for a DSLAM, so no DSL. Especially there is no room in the vault for multiple DSLAM's so there could be at most one or two providers. This was a clear violation of the rules a few years back and the only way out was "No DSLAM period." So that is how it works in newer areas.

Older areas are generally copper to the CO without any interruptions but you do have the maximum distance limit. Many homes have fine telephone service out past 17,000 feet from the CO - no DSL for them. Past around 12,000 you aren't going to get much beyond 512K anyway, at least without quite a bit of searching for a good pair.

So cable is simple and DSL is complicated. To determine if a given address can get DSL you need to know both the distance to the CO, the facilities in the CO and the type of connectivity to the house. This is not easy outside of major metropolitan areas.

ZIP code is about as close as you could get for an approximation. Anything else would be either block-by-block or individual homes. Maybe they could get this information into the 2010 census because that would be about the only practical way to collect the volume of information that would be needed.

Re:Not so simple (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18809465)

Cable access is pretty simple. Either the provider offers it or they do not. For the most part, it is system-wide today and not a lot of areas have cable but no Internet connectivity through it.

Are you sure about that? To me, it sounds like the "cable Internet" of 5-10 years ago. Everyone in a neighborhood competing for the same bandwidth, a large number of modems being "polled" in a large loop to see if they have any traffic to send (resulting in wildly varying latency).

At least here, when DSL appeared and offered advantages over this system, the cable companies upgraded to newer systems that are much more segmented and need equipment closer to the customer. It means the availability is not automatic, but equipment needs to be rolled out similar to DSLAMs in a DSL system.

They need to stop dumbing down US broadband (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18806769)

US broadband speeds, directional balance, and legal definitions have been dumbed down to serve the interests of the incumbent telecom and cable providers and the entertainment industry.

DSL and cable's directionally unbalanced bandwidths are legacy broadband and are technologically obsolescent. Real broadband is bi-directional and starts at about 1 GB to the home. That's what fiber is capable of providing and is what other countries are getting or building toward. A 1 GB fiber can provide telephone, Internet, and cable TV on a single connection, and should cost no more than about $50 a month for all three combined.

In such a system, any subscriber can become a content originator. To prevent discrimination, providers of content, applications, snd services should be legally separated from providers of bandwidth.

This dumbing down has a serious negative impact on US competitiveness. Innovators with real broadband can conceive of applications that US innovators wouldn't imagine because of dumbed-down broadband.

Congress and the FCC still think that broadband starts at 200 KB and that broadband is reasonably provided as a means of delivering proprietary content. They need to get up to date.

Re:They need to stop dumbing down US broadband (1)

debest (471937) | more than 7 years ago | (#18808437)

In such a system, any subscriber can become a content originator. To prevent discrimination, providers of content, applications, snd services should be legally separated from providers of bandwidth.

"Should" and "will" have never been further apart.

This dumbing down has a serious negative impact on US competitiveness. Innovators with real broadband can conceive of applications that US innovators wouldn't imagine because of dumbed-down broadband.

No doubt that this statement is true. Unfortunately for us, this argument pales compared to the need for big media to have good results on the next quarterly income statement. For the companies that are responsible our current state of "broadband" (ie. keeping customers as consumers, rather than producers, of content), they really don't care about the competitiveness of the US years down the road: they only want to make as much money as possible *right now*!

That's all well and good ... (2, Insightful)

ScrewMaster (602015) | more than 7 years ago | (#18806783)

FCC Admits Mistakes In Measuring Broadband Competition

But I wish they'd admit to some more of their mistakes, and then do something about them. This one isn't even one of the most damning.

Aiming to please with well-managed metrics (1)

Shambhu (198415) | more than 7 years ago | (#18808869)

'Our statistical methodology seems almost calculated to obscure just how far our country is falling behind many other industrialized nations in broadband availability, adoption, speed and price.'

I don't actually know a thing about it, but given the processes and 'inputs' that go into these things, it probably was, in fact, calculated to do just that: paint a rosy picture.

Fancy that! Oh the irony.. (1)

wilec (606904) | more than 7 years ago | (#18808879)

"Our statistical methodology seems almost calculated to obscure just how far our country is falling behind many other industrialized nations in broadband availability, adoption, speed and price."

Seems almost? Hello! This would be funny if it were not so painful. If the American people ever manage to wrestle control of their nation from the corporate oligarchy this last decade may very well be recorded in history as the most corrupt since the days of the railroad barons. If we cannot manage reclamation of control such things are going to get a whole lot worse before they break. A disaster which is an inevitable end in a nation where a minority groups greed and corruption run reckless over the will and common interests of the majority of the populace.

Over the years I have heard several people quote some old Scottish monarchist, whose name I forget just now, who rattled on about how democracies were predestined to fail due to the ability of the people to vote themselves endless benefits with no responsibilities. Oh for want of a rope...sorry, back on topic. This I guess could be true in a straight up democracy, however we in the USA are supposed to be living in a representative republic which is designed to negate such excesses. Somehow the Republic has been damaged or at least it's principles have been subverted by those at the top of the economic and political food chain. What is really appalling is that many of these entities are not even real persons, in fact not even Americans. What is so ironic is that the failure of this nation might very well happen through the lack of honest democratic process. Had enough yet folks? I would really like to see this corrected via pressure on our representatives before it get so bad that worse methods are employed by very angry people.

Wabi-Sabi
Matthew

They have morons on their team (1)

hazydave (96747) | more than 7 years ago | (#18809297)

Oh, phleeze! Is it actually a requirement to be an idiot to work for the FCC.

I'm one of those guys who can't get wired broadband, and I'll betcha they have me listed as "served" (it's ok, I have satellite, for about $100/month, that's delivers reasonable performance, unless latency is your big thing). I live in rural South Jersey, in a town covering about 45 square miles that's apparently too small to have its own zipcode. So we get to use a bunch of zipcodes from other towns... that's how zipcodes work, after all... they just link your house to the post office serving that house.

So you can get DSL in some areas of this zipcode, and cable in others... but the zipcode is for Monroeville, NJ. Monroeville is about 15 houses and a post office... most of the people in the Monroeville zipcode don't actually live in Monroeville. In fact, that zipcode covers part of two different counties. MOST of the people in the Monroeville zipcode probably can't get either form of wired broadband offered in this area, but we're no-doubt counted, because the zipcode covers a huge area.

Someone, I shoulda seen this one coming...
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