Email To The Editors

Slate Misses the Real Story About Broadband Data and the FCC

The FCC responds to the Slate article “Map to Nowhere.’

Broadband map. Click image to expand.
The National Broadband Map

The authors of “Map to Nowhere” miss almost entirely the real story regarding broadband data and the FCC, including the National Broadband Map.

First, the National Broadband Map is the largest and most detailed map of broadband ever created, and is entirely open—with 25 million records available for public viewing and download. The data, which were collected under the direction of the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, an agency within the Department of Commerce, and made public in cooperation with the FCC, complement FCC data on broadband adoption. Among other features, the map enables users to access information about broadband offers available locally—including price—by clicking through to providers’ websites. And anyone can download the National Broadband Map data and generate mash-ups with other data to enhance its usefulness.

Second, the authors omit any mention of the fact that the Commission sought public comment earlier this year on a proposal to reform and modernize its broadband data, including to collect—for the first time ever—comprehensive data regarding broadband prices, service quality, and adoption at a granular (census block) level. Such a data set, including data from all providers and with each piece tagged to a specific location, is key to creating a complete and detailed national picture of the broadband market, which can bolster the National Broadband Map.

These reforms are part of the FCC’s Data Innovation Initiative, an unprecedented effort launched less than a year ago to fundamentally improve how the Commission collects, uses, and disseminates data, while reducing data-related costs. As part of this initiative, the FCC has been working with a third party to collect what will likely be the largest and most robust data set on actual broadband performance in history—what speeds and how much latency do broadband consumers actually experience? The results will soon be publicly released.

We understand that the currently available data aren’t perfect; that’s why we’re taking significant steps to improve them. We hope that those who are interested in improving data quality will do their part to help us do so, including by providing constructive feedback on the proposed reforms the Commission has put forward.