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Report shows history of industry efforts to suppress broadband data collection

Days before the Federal Communications Commission presents proposals to bring broadband Internet connections to all U.S. homes, a report shows that major Internet service providers have worked to keep meaningful data on the subject suppressed.

In “Industry Lobby Keeps Public in the Dark About Broadband,” John Dunbar, a project director of American University’s The Investigative Reporting Workshop, details a history of industry efforts to prevent regulators from getting information to map what homes are getting service, the prices they pay and the speeds that they are offered.

Without such data, regulators will be hamstrung in their efforts to bring universal broadband, public interest advocates say And the Obama administration’s allocation of $350 million in stimulus funds for a new mapping program appears riddled with weaknesses, they say.

“The lack of requirement for robust, public data in the legislation is no accident,” Dunbar writes.

Public interest groups say in the report that accurate data in small geographies would show if poorer neighborhoods have slower speeds, higher prices and few options among service providers.

Telecom and cable companies refute Dunbar’s findings. Verizon spokesman David Fish said in the report, “The entire premise of this conspiracy theory is inaccurate, fabricated and just plain silly.”

But the companies have argued that refined data on speeds, prices and access information in smaller geographies is burdensome. They have also argued that such information amounts to trade secrets.

By Cecilia Kang  |  March 12, 2010; 7:00 AM ET
Categories:  AT&T , Broadband , Comcast , Consumers , FCC , Verizon  
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