NTCA Says Better Broadband Data Is Important to Competitive Marketplace

Randy Sukow


Broadband has become the most important segment of the wider communications marketplace in the United States. The quality speed, latency and other performance data from individual broadband providers is a necessity to measuring the state of competition among those providers, commenters said in recent submissions to the FCC.

NTCA–The Rural Broadband Association said the FCC should put emphasis on refining its Broadband Data Collection (BDC) and making improvements in the National Broadband Map. Most would agree that BDC is a significant improvement over the method the FCC has used to gather broadband data for decades.

At the same time, NTCA believes the Commission relies too heavily on advertised speeds and other marketing claims. “Bad advertising-driven data results in ‘false positives’ that treat given locations or entire areas as served [and thus deemed subject to competition and/or ineligible for funding] when the reality on the ground is very different based upon actual network capabilities and performance,” NTCA said.

During even years, the FCC prepares a report to Congress on the state of competition in the overall “communications marketplace,” including voice services, broadcast and broadband video/audio services and data transmission. In an April Public Notice, the Commission asked a long list of questions about the current state of competition and how to manage the future. Some say that the state of the broadband business is good due to robust competition.

“At a time when inflation has become the norm, broadband is an outlier – prices continue to decline as speeds increase. More Americans are gaining access to broadband every day,” said USTelecom in recent comments. “This growth can be further facilitated through policies that sustain the Universal Service Fund with an expanded contributions base, streamline or eliminate legacy obligations as appropriate, and encourage maximum participation by proven providers in broadband funding programs.”

But that positive broadband picture, said ACA Connects – America’s Communications Association, is threatened by regulation of broadband services, especially by any suggestion of rate regulation. The Commission chose not to include any broadband rate regulation in its recent order to restore Title II regulation to broadband, but ACA Connects urges more clarification that there will be no rate regulation in the future.

“Unfortunately, the Commission has recently changed course by adopting unreasonable and unnecessary mandates that put future competitive growth at risk. These regulations are especially likely to inhibit investment from smaller providers with fewer resources and less ability to absorb regulatory costs,” ACA said.

Investment capital for fixed wireless broadband projects has increased over the last two years, especially for projects that introduce fiber backhaul into their plans, says WISPA – The Association for Broadband Without Boundaries. From WISPA’s perspective, spectrum availability is the major factor in maintaining competitiveness.

“Identifying sufficient additional quantities of both unlicensed and licensed spectrum remains essential to maintaining the growth of wireless internet service provider infrastructure and expanding consumer choice,” it said. “The Commission should continue to promote accelerated deployment of by allocating additional spectrum for both end-user and backhaul.”

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