Tag: "transparency"

Posted November 16, 2022 by Ry Marcattilio

This week on the podcast, Christopher is joined by Dustin Loup, Project Manager of the National Broadband Mapping Coalition, housed at the Marconi Society. Dustin joins us to talk about the new national Federal Communications Commission broadband maps, currently under construction and intended to replace the current and hopelessly broken one to prepare for tens of billion in federal broadband funding.

There will hopefully be many improvements in the new maps, the first version of which is due out this month (we're not holding our breath): more granular data, more precision, and a better picture to drive future infrastructure investment in smart, efficient ways. Christopher and Dustin talk through what they hope to see, before turning to some of the problems the see emerging. This includes the frustrating walls already placed around the (tax dollar-funded) data, almost entirely restricting access to researchers and policy makers for accountability purposes, the probability of abuse by large providers, and the troublingly large $50-million contract to ConstQuest proposed in a recent announcement by NTIA to get access to something the federal government has already paid for, to administer the $42.5 billion BEAD program.

This show is 18 minutes long and can be played on this page or via iTunes or the tool of your choice using this feed. You can listen to the interview on this page or visit the Community Broadband Bits page.

Transcript coming soon. 

We want your feedback and suggestions for the show-please e-mail us or leave a comment below.

Listen to other episodes here or view all episodes ...

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Posted November 8, 2022 by Emma Gautier

Nearly one year ago on November 15, 2021, Congress passed the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA), which contained significant legislation around broadband. One piece, which the Institute for Local Self-Reliance (ILSR) has studied closely over the past year and a half, is the implementation of a broadband nutrition label which would require the transparent disclosure of broadband pricing and service information.

While this issue gets very little news coverage, it is an important undertaking as the big providers have a long-established habit of hiding pricing and speed information from subscribers, which prevents them from making informed choices and can leave them vulnerable to exploitation. Our advocacy for the label, and the original research behind our position, can be found here. The FCC is now under deadline to release an order to “promulgate regulations to require the display of” the label by November 15 of this year. We’ve taken a moment here to re-access the issue, offer a few updates, and highlight the ingredients of a strong broadband nutrition label. 

Pushing for Clarity, Easy Accessibility, and Enforcement

ILSR, along with 30 other digital equity organizations, recently filed a letter to the FCC supporting the creation of the broadband consumer label and advocating that it be published in a way that makes it clear and easily accessible for customers. While ILSR believes the label is a key decision-making tool and should be published at the point of sale, we reject proposals to limit the label’s display to the point-of-sale only. We emphasize in this letter that the label should also be published on the monthly bill to provide an additional provider accountability mechanism that allows customers to understand what they're paying for.  

Another critical piece of a strong label is machine readability, or the...

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Posted October 12, 2022 by Ry Marcattilio

This week on the podcast, Christopher is joined by Jessica Engle, Director of Community Outreach at Althea to talk about the Affordable Connectivity Program, the $14-billion fund that provides a $30 monthly service benefit ($75 on Tribal lands) to help defray the cost of Internet access to qualifying families around the country. It's a large and complicated program, and Jessica and Christopher talk about some of the bottlenecks that are causing friction both for households and for Internet Service Providers (ISPs). This includes verifying eligibility in a timely fashion, modifying administrative and accounting systems, a lack of information transparency from USAC and the FCC, and the seeming lack of mechanisms for an audit should it become necessary down the road.

Jessica has started a Discord to help navigate the ACP

How much money is going out the door each month to pay for the Affordable Connectivity Program? Where have funds been spent at the state and zip code level? When will the money run out? Check out our dashboard at ACPdashboard.com.

This show is 17 minutes long and can be played on this page or via iTunes or the tool of your choice using this feed. You can listen to the interview on this page or visit the Community Broadband Bits page.

Transcript coming soon. 

We want your feedback and suggestions for the show-please e-mail us or leave a comment below.

Listen to other episodes here or view all episodes in our index.

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Posted February 7, 2022 by Ry Marcattilio

With a little less than a year left in its projected build schedule, Fort Collins (pop. 168,000) continues to make progress on its municipal fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) network, while also releasing new resources to help keep citizens informed and help households with affordability challenges stay online. 

When we last checked in on Fort Collins' Connexion a little more than a year ago, the network was nearing a milestone, having spent roughly 49 percent of its construction budget. Today, the network is well over the halfway point of its $142 million-dollar build. In fact, it expects to be done placing vaults and with boring work in July.

Along the way, local officials have taken steps to increase transparency and improve communication with local residents. Last summer, it released a construction map of the networks' anticipated 357 fiberhoods, delineating which areas were in design, under construction, or fully lit.

In addition, at the end of November of 2020 the network released a Network Status tracker so that users could see in each of the four quadrants of the city if connections were down. 

The network also continues to offer a tier for income-qualified households who might have trouble paying for service. Anyone with access to the network currently "in a City income-qualified program," can get symmetrical gigabit Internet access for just $20/month. This means those connections are free for those able to particicipate in and apply the current federal Emergency Broadband Benefit (EBB).

In fact, even after the the EBB transitions to the new Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) on March 1, the $30 monthly subsidy will still mean that the network's income-qualified access tier remains free, which should be a significant benefit for those in the city who desperately need to stay connected to the...

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Posted January 27, 2022 by Emma Gautier

In November, the Institute for Local Self-Reliance published a report examining the transparency practices of Internet Service Providers (ISPs). Shopping for Broadband: Failed Federal Policy Creates Murky Marketplace [pdf] identified locally-controlled broadband networks as the most transparent around key service details.

Large ISPs, however, were found to be more likely to make information like upload speed and pricing difficult or impossible for potential customers to find. 

After the report’s original publication, a WISP advocate suggested that our fixed wireless sample may not appropriately represent the industry and requested that we review and re-issue our analysis with an alternative list of ISPs that have been more aggressive in pursuing federal funding and spectrum opportunities. These WISPs greatly outperformed our original sample, which was selected based on those claiming the largest population coverage.

New Set of WISPs Shows Better Transparency 

While many of the original WISPs failed to disclose basic pricing and service information, only two of the second set offered less than excellent information in all categories. The second set had less poor quality information and slightly more missing information than our set of cooperatively-run networks. Municipal networks remained the most transparent. 

Though many of the fixed wireless providers originally studied do seem to claim the greatest number of potential customers, we agree with some reviewers that they are not actually among the largest fixed wireless ISPs with the most subscribers. The new list of WISPs, which is included alongside the original one on the Broadband Transparency Rule Compliance Scorecard, may be a more accurate representation of providers’ transparency practices in this industry. 

We also point out the significant variation in transparency practices between providers of the same type of service, which has been made visible by adding these new wireless providers to the scorecard. While we did expect to see variability between WISPs in particular, we’re interested in whether this variability exists in...

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Posted November 24, 2021 by Ry Marcattilio

A new report by the Electronic Frontier Foundation argues that the general lack of fiber network coverage across the United States - with barely a third of homes able to choose a fiber option -  comes in large part from the domination of the broadband marketplace by incumbent providers who both own and operate the infrastructure that provides Internet access to the vast majority of Americans. It’s a classic market failure, authors Benoît Felten and Thomas Langer argue, where there’s a clear profitable business case for the existence of more fiber access that continues to go unaddressed. At its core, the failure is driven by the attitudes of monopoly Internet Service Providers (ISP) which prefer to reap the profits from existing legacy copper and cable infrastructure rather than invest in new build outs. As a result, a larger proportion of Americans than many other nations remain stuck on slower, more expensive connections.

The solution, the report shows, is relatively straightforward and economically viable for as many as 78 percent of all households across the country: the construction of a series of local or regional fiber networks operated on a wholesale basis, whereby any ISP that wants to can join an open, transparent marketplace, creating much more competition than exists in the current arena. 

“Wholesale Fiber is the Key to Broad US FTTP Coverage” offers an economic case for open access fiber in improving access, affordability, and driving competition. Comparing the potential of what it calls a Vertically Integrated Operators deployment (i.e. traditional incumbent broadband providers that build, own, and operate networks for end users) and Wholesale Network Operators deployment (an open access arrangement where the physical infrastructure is owned by one entity that invites providers to operate on the network and connect end users for a fee), the report finds that the Wholesale Network Operator model reduces the risk of capital investment, drives infrastructure expansion, and would lead to future-proof connectivity for hundreds of millions of Americans. 

  • Reducing the risk of fiber infrastructure deployment is one of the most effective ways to increase the...
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Posted November 11, 2021 by Ry Marcattilio

Report updated in January, 2022.

A new report from the Institute for Local Self-Reliance (ILSR) examines Internet Service Providers’ (ISPs) transparency — or lack thereof — around the Internet service packages they offer. Shopping for Broadband: Failed Federal Policy Creates Murky Marketplace [pdf] finds that locally-controlled broadband networks are the most transparent around key service details. Large ISPs, on the other hand, are more likely to make information like upload speed and pricing difficult or impossible to find. 

Missing or unclear information is frustrating for anyone shopping for a new Internet service. It can make it especially difficult for low-income customers, who need to know pricing details (such as the difference between a service’s promotional price and standard monthly cost) in order to navigate the market and budget for service. Federal standards for transparency exist, but are not currently enforced in any real way by either federal regulation or market pressure.

Recently, Congress passed the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, which includes new information disclosure requirements for ISPs. To underscore the value of these requirements and the need for their proper enforcement, this report offers detailed analysis of 50 of the nation’s largest private wireless, private fiber, cable, municipal, and cooperative ISPs based on how clearly they disclose basic service and pricing information. Key findings include:

  • Municipal broadband networks offer the most available and accessible information in the three categories analyzed.
  • Private fixed wireless providers had the most missing information, with only three out of ten offering clear information in all three categories.
  • Locally-controlled networks — including municipal and cooperative networks — are held accountable by their customers to a greater degree than their larger counterparts, with more incentives to disclose information in a more comprehensive and accessible way.
  • Overall, the ISPs analyzed in this report tend to offer the best information regarding download speeds and the worst information regarding upload speeds.

The report identifies...

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Posted November 11, 2021 by Ry Marcattilio

Frustrated while shopping for Internet service? Blame federal policy (and monopoly power). 

A new report from the Institute for Local Self-Reliance (ILSR) examines Internet Service Providers’ (ISPs) transparency — or lack thereof — around the Internet service packages they offer. Shopping for Broadband: Failed Federal Policy Creates Murky Marketplace [pdf] finds that locally-controlled broadband networks are the most transparent around key service details. Large ISPs, on the other hand, are more likely to make information like upload speed and pricing difficult or impossible to find. 

Missing or unclear information is frustrating for anyone shopping for a new Internet service. It can make it especially difficult for low-income customers, who need to know pricing details (such as the difference between a service’s promotional price and standard monthly cost) in order to navigate the market and budget for service. Federal standards for transparency exist, but are not currently enforced in any real way by either federal regulation or market pressure.

Recently, Congress passed the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, which includes new information disclosure requirements for ISPs. To underscore the value of these requirements and the need for their proper enforcement, this report offers detailed analysis of 50 of the nation’s largest private wireless, private fiber, cable, municipal, and cooperative ISPs based on how clearly they disclose basic service and pricing information. Key findings include:

  • Municipal broadband networks offer the most available and accessible information in the three categories analyzed.
  • Private fixed wireless providers had the most missing information, with only three out of ten offering clear information in all three categories.
  • Locally-controlled networks — including municipal and cooperative networks — are held accountable by their customers to a greater degree than their larger counterparts, with more incentives to disclose information in a more comprehensive and accessible way.
  • Overall, the ISPs analyzed in this report tend to offer the best information regarding download speeds and the worst information regarding upload speeds.

The report identifies multiple dimensions of the Internet transparency problem and offers a series...

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Posted August 23, 2021 by Ry Marcattilio

A month ago we announced the launch of Let's Broadband Together, a coalition of organizations and advocacy groups led by Consumer Reports to collect as many broadband bills as possible and crowdsource the data necessary to fight the trend towards deliberately confusing, obfuscatory broadband pricing in the United States.

If you've had the intention to help out but were looking for that reminder, here it is. Head over to Let's Broadband Together and take a speed tests, submit a PDF of your bill, and answer a few questions. More submissions mean a better the dataset and more comprehensive evidence to support reform. 

Click here to begin, and join Consumer Reports, ILSR, and dozens of other organizations. 

 

Posted July 26, 2021 by Sean Gonsalves

In case you missed it, earlier this month President Biden signed an executive order that aims to promote competition in the U.S. economy. The order includes 72 initiatives, directing a dozen different federal agencies to promote competition in key sectors. 

The White House published a fact sheet to explain what the EO aims to do. [Read the full factsheet is here]. It begins by pointing out how a "lack of competition drives up prices for consumers," which is why "families are paying higher prices for necessities—things like prescription drugs, hearing aids, and Internet service."

It goes on to say that the order will, among other things, "save Americans money on their Internet bills by banning excessive early termination fees, requiring clear disclosure of plan costs to facilitate comparison shopping, and ending landlord exclusivity arrangements that stick tenants with only a single Internet option."

As you might imagine, we are particularly interested in the section on “Internet Service,” which you can read below:

Internet Service

The Order tackles four issues that limit competition, raise prices, and reduce choices for Internet service.

In the Order, the President encourages the FCC to:

• Prevent ISPs from making deals with landlords that limit tenants’ choices.

Lack of competition among broadband providers: More than 200 million U.S. residents live in an area with only one or two reliable high-speed Internet providers, leading to prices as much as five times higher in these markets than in markets with more options. A related problem is landlords and internet service providers entering...

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