Silly Strickling: Carriers Won't Share Broadband Data

istock_000006279005smallOne of the biggest impediments to accurate broadband mapping is the unwillingness of carriers to share with mapping companies or the governments who employ them data on their service areas and speeds. The carriers tend to view such data as proprietary and as such, cite competitive reasons for not disclosing it. But the federal government is hoping that won’t last much longer. Larry Strickling, assistant secretary for communications and information at the Department of Commerce and the administrator for the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, which is overseeing the creation of  a national broadband map, said today that carriers would eventually provide the data about their service areas because public pressure will help make carrier openness a reality.

“I think it is a new era, and I think that carriers will eventually get the message and come along,” Broadband Census quoted Strickling, who will also play a role in the NTIA’s distribution of $4.7 billion in broadband stimulus money, as saying. “We don’t really see this as being a huge problem longer term. But to get this thing started off, we need to protect that confidentiality, or at least give carriers the [option] of retaining that.”

While I agree that if the carriers provided better data, it would make the mapping process easier, I’m not inclined to believe that public pressure will gently mold carriers into benevolent, data-gifting entities, any more than I believed Verizon (s vz) when it said that public pressure would be enough to ensure that carriers keep people’s web data private. We need laws. Carriers don’t want to share the data because then wed know exactly how uncompetitive the market for broadband is in most areas of the country — and armed with that knowledge, the government may have to figure out what to do about it.