The recent bill dedicated to improving the nation’s broadband profile has passed the Senate — albeit with a few changes to render it less problematic for telecom companies. The modified version of the Broadband Data Improvement Act that is now before President Bush is aimed at gathering better data on actual broadband speeds offered to citizens, but is pretty weak when it comes to gathering detailed competition and broadband penetration data.
The final version of the bill eliminates funding for data collection, which means we’re not going to get anything until at least 2010, at which point appropriations might be made, according to an analysis over at Public Knowledge. Additionally, the data collection is supposed to be on a state-by-state basis, which means that comparing apples to apples will be difficult. Just recall how hard it is to get complaint and access line data out of states right now. The carriers are also able to determine exactly how much data they want to disclose about service in various areas.
So what does this legislation do that might help consumers get more information about broadband competition? Well, it does require the General Accounting Office to develop methods and metrics to measure the actual price per bit consumers receive and the actual broadband speeds they experience. These actual speeds can differ widely from advertised speeds, and even based on the type of service a consumer has. We called for such transparency as part of our Broadband Bill of Rights. Now it’s only a matter of waiting and hoping for the money do collect such data. Somewhere, carriers are laughing.