The FCC's New Broadband Availability Map is a Misl
By admin

In February of 2011 the government released our first ever broadband map (available here) after spending roughly $300 million on the project. Our readers by and large were unimpressed at the time, noting the map didn't list prices, and often reported non-existent competitors and unavailable speeds in many markets. Many of these shortcomings are due to carriers, who have fought for the last decade to keep price comparison and deployment data out of the hands of consumers.

So while the intention was arguably good, the implementation wasn't--in part because ISPs don't really like having coverage, competition, and pricing issues highlighted and the FCC routinely lacks the courage to hold their feet to the fire.

After being stuck in funding limbo for several years, Ajit Pai's FCC announced that they'd be relaunching the map as part of Pai's arguably hollow dedication to "closing the digital divide."

"The new, cloud-based map will support more frequent data updates and display improvements at a far lower cost than the original mapping platform, which had not been updated in years," the FCC said in a statement.

The agency also took to Twitter to claim the updated map "provides consumers, policymakers, and stakeholders a robust tool for closing the digital divide."

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The problem: the new map (available here) appears to have all of the problems that plagued the original, and then some. And were somebody to actually use it to determine where broadband coverage gaps exist, they'd falsely walk away thinking there weren't any.

The map still doesn't bother to list pricing data, since ISPs have lobbied ferociously to keep that data out of the hands of the public. After all, if the public could see how much limited competition impacts the price they pay for broadband, somebody in government might just be forced to actually stand up to telecom campaign contributors and actually do something about it.

The map also tends to hallucinate competitive options and over-state speed availability.

For example, I only have the option of one real broadband provider at my home address (Comcast). Yet the FCC's broadband availability map informs me I have more than seven broadband options. Two of which are counted twice (CenturyLink fiber, CenturyLink DSL) despite the fact that neither are actually available at any speed. And despite being a map that proclaims to measure "fixed broadband deployment," three of my available options are slow, over-priced and capped satellite broadband service. Four of the listed options don't even meet the FCC's own definition of broadband (25 Mbps down, 3 Mbps up).

For good measure, the map appears to have also hallucinated fixed wireless broadband availability that isn't actually available in my neighborhood.

Of course if you've watched Pai manipulate facts and ignore the public as he rushes to give wet sloppy kisses for the industry he used to work for, none of this is probably surprising. Nor is it particularly surprising for an FCC that has actively worked to change measurement criteria to make the sector look more competitive. And if you've been paying attention you're probably not shocked to learn large ISPs like Comcast and AT&T routinely lobby to prevent more accurate mapping.

Again, if you release data that clearly highlights the negative impact limited competition has on price, availability, and customer service, somebody might just get the crazy idea to actually do something about it -- and we certainly wouldn't want that.

Head to the FCC's "new" map here and let us know in the comment section if it reflects reality in your neck of the woods.
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