measuring broadband penetration

March 30th, 2008 by kc

the U.S. FCC is trying to improve the way it measures broadband penetration, though the primary mode of measurement is still gathering data from the providers themselves. some meta-data on how the big three (verizon, att, tw) track penetration of their network infrastructures for the last year:

  1. every month verizon sends my mom a bill for her landline service in rural north carolina, containing a glossy flyer: “Get DSL in your area! call now!” every year she calls only to find out that verizon still doesn’t serve her house with broadband. it should not be a big shock that even verizon does not know who verizon serves with broadband, since just one merger ago they were emitting $9B accounting errors (counting doesn’t seem to be one of their strengths), but i don’t think verizon is the nuttiest one on stage here if the fcc is relying on them for broadband penetration numbers. i hope the census bureau is cogitating.
  2. in my area ATT charges you $25/month less for DSL if you have a $5/month ATT landline. how many landline customers are just trying to subsidize their DSL costs, but would rather have $5/month more Internet bandwidth instead?
  3. self-measurement of cabletv penetration is no better: when i tried to cancel my cable tv but just keep my cable modem service, my cable company offered to drop my monthly bill by $25 if i would just keep the tv content streaming to my wall. i asked if i could pay them $25/month for more Internet bandwidth instead of the tv bandwidth. that option is not even on their todo list..

europe is promising a quantum leap ahead of what the US is even attempting to measure:

“(…) by summer in the mid-term review of the i2010 strategy, I will publish a new indicator of broadband take-up in Europe that compares national performance, not only on broadband penetration but also geographic coverage, speed, competition and price.” This is important, since penetration only doesn’t tell the whole story. Compare the OECD Broadband Portal

a strategy review based on empirical data? i wish we had thought of that.


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