Broadband data legislation in the 110th Congress
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The availability of accurate broadband data is an increasingly debated topic among interested parties in the U.S. Both domestic and international comparisons show that the U.S. is lagging behind in broadband penetration, however, at the very heart of this debate is the lack of accurate data. In the 110th Congress, several different pieces of legislation have been introduced and debated, the following is a summary.
Using the public/private partnership model
Connect the Nation Act of 2007The Connect the Nation Act was modeled off of the success of the public-private initiative known as Connect Kentucky. This legislation provides 40 million dollars per year from 2008 to 2012 to be distributed from the federal government for state based initiatives to improve the quality of broadband coverage data and to increase the adoption of broadband data. Among the conditions of being award the grant is the
voluntary nondisclosure agreements as necessary to prevent the unauthorized disclosure of confidential and propriety information provided by broadband service providers in connection with projects funded by any such grant" - (Section 3.D.2.C)
- Sponsored by Senator Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) (S. 1190)
- Sponsored by Rep. Zack Space (H.R. 3627)
- Sponsored by Rep. Thomas Allen (D-Maine) (H.R. 3893)
Broadband Data Improvement Act of 2007
This model approaches the data problem from a different angle. Firstly, it requires the FCC to begin collecting 5 digit plus 4 zip code information from broadband providers. The FCC would then be required to work with the census, to map the broadband data geographically. The census form would be changed to include questions of computer ownership and internet adoption (broadband or dial-up).
This measure also provides for the study of advertised broadband speeds versus actual speeds in consumer homes, and also a nation wide analysis of broadband options available to small business. Section 6 of the legislation includes most of the grant program found in the Connect the Nation Act of 2007, providing 40 million dollars per year from 2008 to 2012 for state based public private initiatives. It also includes the provision that deployment data is subject to confidentiality.
Using the U.S. Census
Broadband Census of America Act of 2007
The Broadband Census of America Act of 2007, extensively revamps the census to conduct a national audit of broadband coverage. The audit includes broadband data down to the 9 digit zip code, to be made publicly available. Although the data is to be made public on an interactive platform within 2 years and includes the names of the available carries, the NTIA, is forbidden from releasing proprietary information (this would effectively prohibit the NTIA from making this data available under the current data standards see the Center for Public Integrity's FOIA lawsuit for more information). Additionally the data would be collected regarding broadband connection speed and use down to the 5 digit zip code level.
This measure also includes a provision for data concerning technology, actual speed (versus advertised speed), price as well as information on which "applications and services the consumer most frequently uses in conjunction with such capability". There are some provisions to protect the anonymity of the individual. In terms of appropriations, it includes 300 million dollars over 3 years for local technology planning groups for Demand-side broadband service identification and assessments. An additional 36 million dollars over 3 years would be provided for mapping the broadband data.
Using the Rural Electrification Act
Rural Broadband Initiative Act of 2007
This legislation would update the Rural Electrification Act of 1936 to include a new level of bureaucracy titled the Office of Rural Broadband Initiatives. This office would be responsible for distributing 20 million dollars each year from 2008 to 2012 as part a National Rural Broadband Innovation Fund. The program is meant to be a one stop stop for all local, state and federal entities interested in increasing broadband deployment via any technology including anything from DSL, WiFi, WIMAX or fiber to rural and undeserved areas.
Rural Broadband Improvement Act of 2007
This legislation would amend the Rural Electrification Act of 1936. It extends an existing loan program to include areas that are rural and undeserved in regards to broadband.
Tax incentives minus the data
Broadband Deployment Acceleration Act of 2007
This legislation creates a series of tax incentives related to the cost of installation and connection of customers, to broadband, in undeserved and rural areas. It shields these incentives from additional taxation by the federal or state governments. Although, this legislation does not improve broadband data collection, its direct affect on deployment and coverage warrants it be included here.
Articles and resources
Related SourceWatch resources
- Telecom, Media and Intellectual Property Policy (U.S.) portal.
- Broadband data - the public availability of broadband data, especially that which is collected by the FCC.