Broadband Data Improvement (S.1492)
Ah, the boring but important department. What is your government doing for you? Passing pork barrel funding for rural telcos and failing to demand better data connectivity from the protected telecom monopolies that they have created... What, you ask, is this 1984?
Back to the future! The breakup of Ma-bell has all but been reversed. We now have two telephone companies in this country - Verizon and AT&T. And since they operate in non-overlapping markets, the effect is that consumers of telecommunications services are forced to deal with a monopoly.
Which is partly why "broadband" continues to be defined as 200K by the FCC. The best interests of the telecom operators are served by making as much money as possible from the existing physical plan investments before upgrading.
Sadly, this is not being challenged by the US Senate in their so-called "Broadband Data Improvement Act" (S.1492). Our old favorite Dan Inouye (D-HI) who has done such a great job of bringing millions of Federal dollars to his state to improve data connectivity for a handful of houses is behind this new bill.
But what will be done to create incentives for the monopolists to have our country remain competitive with the rest of the world in broadband connectivity? Apparently very little (if anything). Here is what S.1492 promises:
- Direct the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to reevaluate its current 200 kilobit broadband standard. It also would require the FCC to create a new metric known as "second generation broadband" to be used to reflect network connections capable of reliably transmitting high-definition video content.
- Direct broadband providers to report broadband availability and second generation broadband connections within 9-digit zip code areas.
- Direct the FCC to conduct inquiries into the deployment of advanced telecommunications services on an annual, rather than periodic, basis.
- Direct the Census Bureau to include a question in its American Community Survey that assesses levels of residential computer use and dial-up versus broadband Internet subscribership.
- Direct the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to develop broadband metrics that may be used to provide consumers with broadband connection cost and capability information and improve the process of comparing the deployment and penetration of broadband in the United States with other countries.
- Direct the Small Business Administration's Office of Advocacy to conduct a study evaluating the impact of broadband speed and price on small businesses.
- Authorize a 5-year, $40 million per year program that would provide matching grants to State non-profit, public-private partnerships in support of efforts to more accurately identify barriers to broadband adoption throughout the State.
In other words, the bill would direct the FCC to study the question of what it means for us to remain competitive with the rest of the world while throwing a little money ($40 million) to states to give money to... who? Private companies that are "identifying barriers to broadband adoption?" If it squeals like a pig, it is probably pork.