Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Broadband Divide: NTIA Broadband in America Report

An interesting report was released last week by the U.S. Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA). The report is titled Networked Nation: Broadband in America, 2007 and outlines "how the Administration’s technology, regulatory and fiscal policies have stimulated innovation and competition, and encouraged investment in the U.S. broadband market contributing to significantly increased accessibility of broadband services".

Here's more from a January 31 NTIA press release announcing the report:

Four years ago, President Bush established a national goal of universal, affordable broadband access for all Americans. Since then, the United States has witnessed remarkable results in the growth of the broadband marketplace and the proliferation of broadband platforms and service options. The existing data indicate that broadband is available to the vast majority of U.S. households:

  • According to the FCC’s 2006 data, broadband service was available in 99 percent of the nation’s zip codes, encompassing 99 percent of the nation’s population;

  • Since President Bush took office, the total number of broadband lines in the United States has grown by more than 1,100 percent from almost 6.8 million lines in December 2000, to 82.5 million in December 2006, according to the most recent FCC data.

  • By December 2006, 91.5 percent of ZIP codes had three or more competing service providers and more than 50 percent of the nation’s ZIP codes had six or more competitors.
Here's a couple of contradictory points from a Speed matters blog discussing the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development’s high speed Internet rankings:

Just 22.1 percent of Americans have high speed connections, compared to more than 34 percent in Denmark, the top-ranked country.

The U.S. fares no better when it comes to the speed of Internet connections and the growth of high speed Internet access, coming in 19th place in both categories, behind nations like New Zealand, Portugal, and Luxembourg.

I've written in the past about how the Federal Communications Commission defines broadband in the United States - here's a quote from the FCC website:

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) generally defines broadband service as data transmission speeds exceeding 200 kilobits per second (Kbps), or 200,000 bits per second, in at least one direction: downstream (from the Internet to your computer) or upstream (from your computer to the Internet)."

I've also written in the past about how the FCC currently collects broadband data. Here's a piece from a press release by House Subcommittee on Telecommunications and the Internet Chairman Ed Markey describing the current FCC broadband data collection methods:

"...the fact that current data collection methods used by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) are inadequate and highly flawed. Currently, the FCC counts a single broadband subscriber in a 5-digit zip code as indicating the entire zip code has broadband availability, even if the sole subscriber is a business and not a residential consumer. This can lead to highly inaccurate and overly generous notions of actual broadband availability and use, particularly in rural areas where zip codes are quite large."

The NTIA included the following in the report conclusion:

The U.S. Government is taking action to improve its data collection tools to obtain more granular information that will provide a more detailed view into these issues.

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