FCC Announces Changes to Broadband Data Collection

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has announced several changes to the way it collects broadband subscribership data.

The FCC’s broadband data gathering program collects information from facilities-based broadband providers, including incumbent and competitive local exchange carriers, cable system operators, fixed wireless service providers, terrestrial and satellite mobile wireless service providers, electric utilities, municipalities and other entities, on the number of high-speed internet connections in service in the United States. The FCC voted to (1) expand the number of broadband reporting speed tiers to capture more precise information about upload and download broadband speeds in the marketplace; (2) require broadband providers to report numbers of broadband subscribers by Census Tract, broken down by speed tier and technology type; and (3) improve the accuracy of information the FCC gathers about mobile wireless broadband deployment.

Commissioner Robert McDowell dissented in part because he objected to using arbitrary and misleading terminology and definitions for broadband service. Commissioner McDowell stated that the FCC should avoid imposing data reporting requirements on all providers that may be unduly burdensome or which may put one provider at a competitive advantage. In a companion Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, the FCC will seek comment on broadband service pricing and availability. The FCC also adopted a Fifth Report and Order concluding that advanced telecommunications services are being deployed in the United States in a reasonable and timely fashion. However, Commissioners Michael Copps and Jonathan Adelstein dissented from the Fifth Report and Order because they asserted that it relies upon insufficiently granular data, lacks a plausible definition of broadband service, ignores evidence that the United States is falling behind other countries in broadband deployment and fails to provide a clear picture of the broadband market in the United States.