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Broadband Data Improvement Act Clears Committee 128

Posted by Zonk
from the 200kbps-is-not-a-very-broad-band dept.
MBCook writes "Ars Technica is reporting that the Broadband Data Improvement Act has left committee with a unanimous vote. Among the changes proposed are requiring the definition of 'second generation broadband' (enough to carry HDTV) instead of the current definition of broadband as 200Kbps, and aggregating the data by ZIP+4 instead of just the full ZIP code. The act can now move to the full Senate."
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Broadband Data Improvement Act Clears Committee

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  • Par for the course. (Score:4, Informative)

    by 140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) on Friday July 20, 2007 @09:34AM (#19926027) Journal
    Free Press policy director Ben Scott said, "For too long, policymakers have been forced to operate in the dark, relying on misleading and sometimes inaccurate information about the U.S. broadband market. By providing detailed information about the deployment, availability and use of broadband services in this country, the Broadband Data Improvement Act promises to bring us one step closer to our shared goal of universal, affordable broadband."

    Isn't this par for the course in almost all fields, not just broadband market? In almost every thing the Congress does there is an interest group that funds studies, think tanks, policy white papers all designed to muddy the waters. Everywhere, ODF adoption, credit report freeze, bankruptcy reform, S-Chip, ID vs Evolution ... There is this huge industry whose sole purpose is to force the lawmakers and the public to act in the dark and providing inaccurate and misleading information. Why single out broadband alone?

    • In almost every thing the Congress does there is an interest group that funds studies, think tanks, policy white papers all designed to muddy the waters.
      Should read: In every thing the Congress does there is an interest group that funds studies, think tanks, policy white papers all designed to muddy the waters.
    • "Why single out broadband alone?"

      Well, you have to start somewhere. I doubt this will get anywhere, but if it does, maybe other sectors will be encouraged to do the Right Thing. Again, not likely...
  • ZIP+4 (Score:3, Funny)

    by Waffle Iron (339739) on Friday July 20, 2007 @09:45AM (#19926143)
    Now we'll finally know if crucial ZIP+4 zones like my regional IRS tax return mail basket are getting suitable broadband hookups.
    • Re:ZIP+4 (Score:5, Informative)

      by ZachPruckowski (918562) <zachary.pruckowski@gmail.com> on Friday July 20, 2007 @10:39AM (#19926775)
      ZIP+4 is one of the best changes in the bill. My ZIP code (20180) "has" cable, but it's only available in the town 3 miles away from me. Geographically, 95% of my ZIP code (and probably 60-70% population-wise) have no broadband, yet we're listed as having access to broadband. This bill is designed to stop the cable/phone Companies from telling the government and media that they've fulfilled their promise to bring "broadband to the masses" by redefining broadband to 2 Mb/s of theoretical speed (not even actual speed) and making them show penetration with better granularity.
      • by equivocal (655448)
        Like everyone in town, my +4 just indicates my PO Box. I like that granularity.

        Best part is if they really stick to the 2Mbs threshhold then not even satellite can qualify as "broadband". Maybe then the true picture will emerge of how pathetic US broadband availability is.
      • Cool. I just checked, and my neighbors down the road near the highway (who have cable) are in a different +4 than those of us who aren't right next to the highway (and thus have only rusty telephone lines). We have very thin slivers of HSI through town along the highways, where the cable is on its way to other towns.

  • by dada21 (163177) <adam.dada@gmail.com> on Friday July 20, 2007 @09:47AM (#19926169) Homepage Journal
    This bill was written solely to upset the current relatively free market of broadband. Because the government will set "standards" of speed, this leaves smaller providers -- who may still be able to provide acceptable speeds -- out of the market. If you won't be able to give the minimum, get out of the market.

    Here's why I am against Net Neutrality -- instead of providing for a truly "neutral" pipe, regulations like these will be written by the strongest elements in a market, designed to kill the smaller competitors. It is unfortunate if geeks and techies support these kinds of bills, especially without reading them fully. There is no Constitutional power allocated to the Senate to REQUIRE levels of service. The interstate commerce clause was written so that the Federal government can restrain the individual States from harming commerce -- the word "regulate" in the Constitution did not mean what we think it means today.

    Very, very unfortunate.
    • This bill was written solely to upset the current relatively free market of broadband.

      Where do you live where you have more than two choices of providers? I'm sure in NYC or San Francisco it's a 'relatively free market,' but not where I live. I can choose between Verizon (BOO!) or Comcast (boo). Where's my free market? Where are my smaller providers? Hell, Verizon's not even planning on rolling FiOS out to me for another two years, even though I live in a densely populated area with housing values near thos

      • by dada21 (163177)
        I can choose between Verizon (BOO!) or Comcast (boo). Where's my free market? Where are my smaller providers? Hell, Verizon's not even planning on rolling FiOS out to me for another two years, even though I live in a densely populated area with housing values near those of my parent's suburban neighborhood.

        No one is stopping anyone else from competing. Oh, waitaminute, someone is stopping them -- check with your local village/city, county and State laws. They might be preventing your community from gettin
        • No one is stopping anyone else from competing. Oh, waitaminute, someone is stopping them -- check with your local village/city, county and State laws. They might be preventing your community from getting more than 2 providers. They likely are.

          And yet you oppose this bill for its supposedly anti-competitive effect. This bill expressly forbids states and municipalities from limiting broadband providers, which addresses that concern.

          RTFBill (or even an executive summary) before you try to make comments on it

        • Oh, waitaminute, someone is stopping them -- check with your local village/city, county and State laws. They might be preventing your community from getting more than 2 providers. They likely are.

          I guarantee it. In Arkansas, Conway has a contract with Conwaycorp to bring... well I don't know what it is, but it's sure not high quality internet/cable/blah blah. Maumelle has a contract with Cox Cable. Therefore it's illegal for any other companies to try and bring cable/phone/whatever into those places. You can get satellite because you're not actually pulling wires, which is really what it's about, AFAIK - land rights. I actually agree that this kinda thing isn't a good idea. I used to be of the o

    • This bill was written solely to upset the current relatively free market of broadband.

      We do not have anything remotely resembling a free market for any communications services in the U.S. I can't imagine where you got that idea...

      Because the government will set "standards" of speed, this leaves smaller providers -- who may still be able to provide acceptable speeds -- out of the market. If you won't be able to give the minimum, get out of the market.

      I doubt anyone is going to cry about inadequ

      • by dada21 (163177)
        I doubt anyone is going to cry about inadequate service providers being forced to stop describing their service as "broadband" or even going belly up. Not that there is much danger of that probably... For goodness' sake, this is 2007 -- 2Mbps minimum in order to call it "broadband" is perfectly reasonable...

        I disagree. When I first had "broadband" it was a 128k/128k IDSL connection. Guess what? It was excellent -- my latency was very low, and the speed was respectable for everything we needed to do at
        • by Skye16 (685048)
          Look, you're lucky enough that you have choices. Good for you. The overwhelming majority of the US does not. We're not going to all try to fix things on a local level when the majority has a problem all over the US. If this means you get screwed, then so be it; it's for the greater good.

          Don't like it? Well... argue about it, by all means. But your words are falling on deaf ears, at best. I'm sorry this upsets you, but overall, frankly, I don't give a fuck.
        • Just streaming content takes bandwidth -- sorry but one needn't be a "leech" for it to be an issue.
          Really it sort of looks to me like you may be astroturfing for a telco, but maybe you're just an older, very lightweight internet user.
          I use the internet for much of my work -- downloading and uploading large documents and having to view multimedia presentations in various formats. Why should I have to buy and pay for a service before discovering whether or not it is suitable? That's the way it has been of
          • by dada21 (163177)
            I use the internet for much of my work -- downloading and uploading large documents and having to view multimedia presentations in various formats. Why should I have to buy and pay for a service before discovering whether or not it is suitable?

            I've been a Speakeasy customer since they opened -- they were one of the first IDSL providers in Illinois.

            That being said, you use the Internet for WORK. If you're not willing to pay the price for the service your work needs, don't rely on what the broadband provide
            • There is no excuse for getting two services then canceling them.

              Actually, I didn't think I needed an excuse -- I was just going by the claims made by the sales literature (now I know better). This is why we need government definitions for goods and services, even with it companies obfuscate the releveant issues and even flat-out lie in their quest for our money, and too often there is little recourse.

              But I can see we are not likely to agree on this as we are probably at opposite ends of the politi

            • T1 speeds don't always cut it anymore - besides, I'm getting a 3mbit DSL connection today for $30/month, a whole $470/month cheaper than your 'solution.

              For $400/month many places can afford to deal with a little downtime occasionally, especially home users.

              Heck, if I was a business user, I could get DSL AND Cable, and still likely save more than $300/month. Sure, my NAT solution would be a bit hairy unless the two companies are willing to cooperate, but there's a NAT gateway/router/switch out there [amazon.com]* for ~$
    • by Nicolas MONNET (4727) <nicoaltiva@nOSPAM.gmail.com> on Friday July 20, 2007 @10:14AM (#19926497) Journal
      "This bill was written solely to upset the current relatively free market of broadband. "

      Because we have an aggressively pro-competition regulating agency in France, you have a dozen way to get broadband in most cities. And you basically can't get anything below ADSL2+ those days.

      At the moment I pay 29 euros a month for 24/1Mbps, HDTV service, and free international phone (analog and voip). They also provide [adsl.free.fr] me with a free router, Wifi AP, HDTV PVR set top box and analog telephone adaptor.

      No cap on data, no filtering whatsoever, no shaping. Quality of service is good, and has been improving steadily. You have the occasional day long outage (two last years, none this year so far), but other than that downloading speeds are stable and pretty much max out my line 24/7.

      And the reason for this is that ARCEPT [art-telecom.fr] has been given a lot of power to enforce competition in the broadcast market. None of those services are subsidised. They haven't been so successful with cellphone, OTOH. But they're working on it.
    • This bill was written solely to upset the current relatively free market of broadband

      What? Where do you get that idea from? Or is this more unfounded anti-regulatory claptrap?

      Because the government will set "standards" of speed, this leaves smaller providers -- who may still be able to provide acceptable speeds -- out of the market.

      Hogwash. Smaller providers can still be in the market, but if they don't meet the threshold for second generation broadband, they can't call themselves broadband. This is tr

      • by dada21 (163177)
        What? Where do you get that idea from? Or is this more unfounded anti-regulatory claptrap?

        I read the bill. Did you?

        Hogwash. Smaller providers can still be in the market, but if they don't meet the threshold for second generation broadband, they can't call themselves broadband. This is true of large providers as well. This leads to better information for consumers.

        In a free market, there are no consumers or producers. There are two parties who negotiate a deal both hoping to get the most for themselves by
        • by quanticle (843097)
          Broadband should only be defined by the provider of the service, and the user of the service. The definition of broadband differs to different people.

          That's like saying that serving contaminated food is okay because the definition of food differs between people.
        • In a free market, there are no consumers or producers. There are two parties who negotiate a deal both hoping to get the most for themselves by giving up the least to the other party.

          Sorry, should have said "purchasers and sellers". The terminology makes no difference to my point, though.

          Free information is irrelevant unless the market provides that information somehow.

          Your understanbding of economic theory falls short again. The free market model doesn't work without near-perfect information -- even you

      • by gad_zuki! (70830)
        No, he didnt read it. I'm willing to bet this is another cut and paste from some conservative think-tank or presidential candidate. Its called astroturfing.

        It works becaue right now, being a conservative contrarian defending the status quo is pretty hip. See the millions who voted for Bush and now get their politics from South park and Ron Paul.
        • I've had many long discussions with dada21. He's got an incomplete understanding of economics, he's substituted the crap put out by the Mises Intstitute re: the "free market ideal" with what an ideal free market is.

          Also, I'm not sure it's really astroturfing, which would require him being paid to build fake grassroots support -- typically there is a level of deception involved, usually a company paying the astroturfer to misrepresent an issue. I think he really believes his hogwash and honestly thinks he
          • by evilviper (135110)

            I think he really believes his hogwash and honestly thinks he's spreading the good word.

            I've had plenty of arguments with him, and I've read plenty of other people's arguments with him, and I'd say exactly the opposite.

            I believe he's more along the lines of someone upset about being in a high tax bracket; had a protected species found on his property preventing him from building; or some similar case of an "I got mine" sociopath.

            He's not nearly stupid enough to brush off the numerous air-tight arguments he

    • This bill was written solely to upset the current relatively free market of broadband.

      A little more "relatively," and a little less "free," in my experience. In my current location (Madison, WI - not a major metropolitan area, but not the sticks, either), I have two choices for broadband: cable or DSL. If I go with cable, I go with Charter. If I go with DSL, I go with AT&T. "Tha's it an' tha's all," as they say. I fail to see how anything can squeeze "smaller providers" out of the system more than not b
      • by dada21 (163177)
        Tha's it an' tha's all," as they say. I fail to see how anything can squeeze "smaller providers" out of the system more than not being in the system at all.

        That's the fault of Madison residents for allowing their local government to protect the interests of two parties. It sounds to me like you should pull a few T1 lines into Madison, rent some commercial closets, and start up a decent WiFi provider like http://jimmywireless.com/ [jimmywireless.com] by me. They do a great job for a great rate. They even provide free WiFi se
        • Where am I going to get T1s from? AT&T? I have the sneaking suspicion that they will be priced - by AT&T - at a level that makes it difficult to compete with AT&T. The problem is that internet service is inherently a non-local product, since it depends on general connectivity with the rest of the world. It is essentially impossible for your average startup to lay its own network of physical links, which means it has to contract with the owners of the existing lines. In my area, a single T1 can b
    • Because the government will set "standards" of speed, this leaves smaller providers -- who may still be able to provide acceptable speeds -- out of the market. If you won't be able to give the minimum, get out of the market.

      Not at all. More accurately, if you can't provide acceptable speeds, you're not allowed to pretend that you can. To my understanding, small providers can still provide smaller access for the same prices; they just can't pretend that it's "broadband." Do you shed tears because small farm

    • by Kadin2048 (468275) *
      This bill was written solely to upset the current relatively free market of broadband.

      So, I just gotta ask -- does the cable industry pay you by the word, or do you get some sort of flat rate for your shilling?

      You sound like one of those horrific industry ads that they're running every ten minutes on Comcast; the one with the not-really-a-doctor-but-I'm-wearing-a-white-coat guy mumbling about how cable internet fixed the healthcare system, or the one with the old woman who seems to be confusing high-speed
    • by gad_zuki! (70830)
      First off, regulations like these are seen all over Europe and they have better broadband choices.

      Secondly, there's no shrotage of free market zealots who have no problem with companies selling broadband for full price and delivering 160-300kbps. Thats not broadband, thats crap. If anything this is consumer protection. A dsl line this slow should not be called broadband. They can name it "slowband."

      The bullshit subsidiaries that Congress hands out is the core of this problem. Local bells and cable companie
    • smaller providers -- who may still be able to provide acceptable speeds -- out of the market. If you won't be able to give the minimum, get out of the market.

      Cool your jets!

      I don't know of any smaller provider(s) who run their own cable/wire to your household. They piggyback on the big monopoly telcos and cable providers. As such, they have the same available line speed options available as the monopoly providers. If they can't meet new minimum broadband requirements using the same delivery infrastru

    • This bill was written solely to upset the current relatively free market of broadband. Because the government will set "standards" of speed, this leaves smaller providers -- who may still be able to provide acceptable speeds -- out of the market. If you won't be able to give the minimum, get out of the market.

      Since when is the broadband market free at all?

      Any new ISP that wants to enter a given market area first has to have an infrastructure over which to provide service. If our Local ISP Co. tries to b

    • by evilviper (135110)

      Because the government will set "standards" of speed, this leaves smaller providers -- who may still be able to provide acceptable speeds -- out of the market.

      Not even remotely true. It really only prevents companies from advertising that they are selling a "broadband" service if it's below that speed.

      instead of providing for a truly "neutral" pipe, regulations like these will be written by the strongest elements in a market, designed to kill the smaller competitors.

      Without net neutrality, companies can ju

    • by Sandbags (964742)
      In my vast experience, working in multiple markets for a company that sells electronically vaulted backup data and a target customer of SMB market size, I typically find the smaller, localized ISPs are offering BETTER speeds at lower prices than the big guys (to remain competitive mostly I guess). Rarely do i find a small town ISP that can't provide at least 2Mbit down and 512Kbit up to all their customers. It's not an issue of line quality as cable and DSL are capable of per-connections speeds far in exc
    • by AK Marc (707885)
      I wouldn't mind it and I work for a smaller provider. We serve remote areas served by satellite only. We sell DSL at well under 2Mbps. When you are paying $16,000 for a T1, bandwidth is expensive (and no, we aren't using that particular service, but the official state-approved regulated cost of a T1 for these remote areas through AT&T is $16,000). What we just had to spend money on was CALEA compliance. All "broadband" connections must be tapable. If 2Mbps is "broadband" then we can drop almost al
    • by sjames (1099)

      who may still be able to provide acceptable speeds -- out of the market. If you won't be able to give the minimum, get out of the market.

      More like if it's slow, don't call it broadband or high speed. Instead call it "always on" or "budget" and feel free to tout that it doesn't tie up the phone for voice calls.

      What it is designed to do is keep phone companies from delivering really crappy connections and then claiming that because their areas are already well covered they don't need additional competit

  • by InvisblePinkUnicorn (1126837) on Friday July 20, 2007 @09:51AM (#19926221)
    Internet News [internetnews.com] has more details and analysis of the act, including comments from Senator Ted Stevens (R-Alaska), who voted for the bill but expressed reservations:

    "I worry that the provisions addressing broadband speeds and smaller geographic areas in this bill could inadvertently paint a picture of an America without broadband that is not accurate," he said in a statement... I am not sure that Congress, rather than the FCC, should be getting into this level of detail, particularly given technological changes, such as compression technologies that could make these standards a moving target."

    I'm not sure I agree with him that the "America with broadband" picture is inaccurate. By most other modern countries' standards, we are far behind.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      Oh God, Ted Stevens talking about compression... When will he learn that compression doesn't provide faster internet services...
      • by Rolgar (556636)
        I bet a 'compression is a series of trash compactors' analogy is forthcoming soon.
    • by Shaman (1148)
      People keep saying this. It's not usually true, and do not understand why. Having a large Internet connection doesn't mean everything comes to you at higher speeds. I have a gigabit connection right to my desktop at work and speeds vary from 20KBps to 10MB/s and I might have both download windows side by side. Never seen anything higher than that unless I was looking for a specific network path that I knew could deliver it.

      If you don't know something, it's best not to misinform others.
      • It's rated for 24Mbps. I usually get around 1-2 Mbyte/s on a single download TCP stream. I can basically max out the bandwidth with multiple simultaneous downloads anytime.

        And I pay 29 euro a month.

    • Ted Stevens lost the ability to intelligently comment on the Internet when he called it a series of tubes. And I'm sure that, compared to Alaska, the rest of the US looks like the year 3000.

      Honestly, what qualifications does this guy have other than "I've taken lots of money from AT&T and Verizon?"

      • by AK Marc (707885)
        And I'm sure that, compared to Alaska, the rest of the US looks like the year 3000.

        Alaska has one of the largest broadband penetration rates in the US.
        • by Knara (9377)
          And one of the smallest, most concentrated populations of people who want it.
    • Re: (Score:1, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward
      What Stevens isn't getting (or is purposefully avoiding saying) is that a greater broadband connection, plus compression technologies, would allow for even more use within that broadband channel. That allows for further development of new uses and technologies.

      To put it in words he would understand:
      "If you give everyone a bigger tube, and then someone comes along and tells you how to pack your internets into a smaller email, then you can email even more internets without clogging your tube! Everyone wins!"
  • by Renraku (518261) on Friday July 20, 2007 @10:08AM (#19926407) Homepage
    ..where it was promptly shot down by senators who listened to the lobbyists who went on and on about how it would bankrupt their companies, when in reality, they would just pass the cost directly to the consumer.

    "Oh, BTW, we're increaseing your rates by $100 a month, starting three months ago. Congress is forcing us to do this, we'll call it the broadband tax."
  • They're going to be laying down a lot of new tubes.
  • It's too late to buy or rent office space for the millions of people they 'homesourced' and who now rely on broadband for their jobs and for their employers profits. If they charge me twice as much for half the service then my employer will just have to pick up the slack. The only alternative is to go out and rent or build millions of feet of office space.
    • by gelfling (6534)
      Of course I'm not offtopic employers are not going to stand for increased fees, taxes and duties after they spent 5 years unburdening themselves of overhead. If telco's think they can simply snap their fingers and ratchet up prices w/o a fight they are wrong.

      Now? do you get it?
  • aggregating the data by ZIP+4 instead of just the full ZIP code.

    If they aggregate by Zip+4, then I'm my own little broadband kingdom of one household. This means the original idea that as long as one household in the measured area has broadband, the whole area is considered to have broadband, becomes a binary truism.

    • Yes, exactly. That's why they want to move from "one household per ZIP code" to "one household per ZIP+4," so that it's representative of actual penetration. The avantage of using ZIP+4 instead of "household" is that ZIP+4 is well-defined, while "household" is less so. As an example, is a duplex one household or two? How about a kid living in his parents' basement - but paying rent?

      That sort of thing.
  • For years, geeks have criticized the way that the agency collects broadband information, focusing especially on the fact that the bar for "broadband" is set laughably low (200Kbps)

    Really? I'd think "geeks" like myself would criticize the fact that "broadband" is a term that describes how the signal is carried, and has nothing at all to do with speed in any way, shape or form.

    Turns out my baseband Ethernet connection has been "broadband" for all these years. All those books, and all my teachers, have been

    • by AK Marc (707885)
      Turns out my baseband Ethernet connection has been "broadband" for all these years. All those books, and all my teachers, have been lying to me for many years...

      And you are an idiot. There are multiple definitions in the dictionary for most words. Amazingly, a word can have more than one definition. Sometimes, the meaning even changes from the original meaning. The "problem" was that cable delivery and DSL delivery are broadband, but a large portion of FTTH at higher speeds than the others would be ba

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