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FCC Releases Notice of Inquiry on Broadband Data Collection

The FCC Friday put out a notice of inquiry on broadband data collection with the advice to start fresh.

FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski has said decisions in his FCC would be data-driven, the other caveat being it has to be the best data available.

"In the Notice of Inquiry released today, the Commission starts with a clean slate against a backdrop of statutory and policy changes," the commission said in announcing the inquiry.

"Those changes include Congress’s requirement that the FCC develop a comprehensive National Broadband Plan by Feb. 17, 2010, that it improve its broadband data collection, and the Commission’s own efforts to collect broadband data on a more granular basis."

It also took aim at the conclusions of the five previous reports. "In each instance, the Commission concluded that broadband was being deployed to all Americans in a reasonable and timely fashion. These conclusions, however, rested on data increasingly criticized as lacking sufficient detail to support robust analyses."

The inquiry is required by the Broadband Data Improvement Act. That turned what had been a periodic data collection established by the 1996 Telecommunications Act rewrite, into an annual requirement with some new mandates.

The bill was in addition to the FCC's own order, adopted in June 2007, to refine and expand its broadband-data collection, including creating new categories of upload and download speeds to better identify the quality of the service being provided -- how much of that service can support advanced applications like high-resolution video, for example. It also required reporting from wireless operators with subscribers that can browse the Internett with their phones and other devices, and asked voice-over-Internet-protocol companies to report their customers, as well.

The FCC also has more granular data to collect for a broadband mapping mandate from Congress due next year, but this report, due to Congress Feb. 3, is on "whether broadband is being deployed to all Americans in a reasonable and timely fashion."

The report, where it pertains, will also dovetail with the FCC's national broadband plan, which is due to Congress two weeks later.

The FCC two weeks ago released data on high-speed broadband deployment that usually is relied on heavily for the congressional report. But it will not likely be relied on heavily this time around. The FCC release announcing the new high-speed data made it clear that it was based on a defunct standard and pointed out that it was collecting new and better high-speed data that it would rely on for this new report.