Pathetic NTIA Broadband Report: Inflated ZIP Codes and BPL

bpl.gif U.S. Commerce Secretary hails “dramatic growth of broadband” in the U.S., citing a report from National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA). That report not only uses the U.S. tinyband definition of 256Kbps as “broadband”, it still uses ancient metrics such as this:
By December 2006, 91.5 percent of ZIP codes had three or more competing service providers and more than 50 percent of the nation’s ZIP codes had six or more competitors.

Gutierrez Hails Dramatic U.S. Broadband Growth, Government Technology, Feb 1, 2008, News Report

So any provider that has service available to at least one user in a ZIP code is counted as a “competitor”.

Meanwhile, the ARRL says the NTIA report inflates broadband over powerline (BPL) figures:

Yet, the FCC’s own data show that BPL has failed to catch on.

So, exactly how much “robust technological development” has occurred as a result of this policy of “removing barriers” to BPL that is described more fully on page 8 as a cooperative effort between the FCC and NTIA? One has to wait until page 26 to find the NTIA’s answer — and modest as it is, it is still startlingly at variance with reality. Here the report admits that “BPL has yet to make significant inroads in the broadband marketplace.” Then comes the following incredible paragraph:

Reliable BPL subscribership figures are difficult to find. The FCC’s most recent data identify fewer than 5,000 BPL customers as of year end 2006. That figure appears low, however. TIA [Telecommunications Industry Association] estimates 200,000 current BPL subscribers, increasing to 700,000 by 2010. Another source forecast about 400,000 customers by the end of 2007, growing to 2.5 million by year end 2011.
WHAT IS GOING ON HERE? The FCC’s data showing fewer than 5000 BPL customers — a number that dropped in the six-month period covered by the report — are taken from forms that service providers are required to submit. Why does the NTIA not regard this figure as reliable? The only way that it “appears low” is by comparison with the excessive industry and government hype.

NTIA Report on Broadband in America 2007 Inflates BPL Figures David Sumner, K1ZZ, Chief Executive Officer, ARRL, the national association for Amateur Radio, February 1, 2008

This is pathetic. The U.S. used to be the can-do nation. Now it’s reduced to spurious metrics and imaginary figures. This is what happens when you ignore real market failure and put political commissars in charge of enforcing political ideology instead.

Meanwhile, Japan, Korea, Finland, France, and many other countries with both higher and lower population densities than the U.S. have universally-available broadband at speeds ten times faster than the U.S. and cheaper per bit per second. This is what happens when you have real competition, in each country abetted by its government enforcing play-fair rules.

What if the FCC and Dept. of Commerce and Congress actually worked to produce a level playing field for multiple competitors?


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