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FCC Votes to Update Broadband Data Collection

The FCC unanimously voted Tuesday to update its reporting requirements for broadband service, though it also sought comment on just how it should do that.

That is part of a larger data-collection reform effort under FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski.

The move means ISPs may have to start providing more data to the government, including on broadband pricing, something both Republican commissioners suggested could be problematic as a possible precursor to broadband pricing regulation.

The FCC already collects
information on broadband subscriptions, but is proposing to add
collecting data on deplyment, price, service quality/consumer
satisfaction, and ownership/contact info.

The chairman sees collecting better broadband data as key to the National Broadband Plan effort to boost deployment and adoption, the argument being that it is necessary to better understand where broadband isn't in order to make sure those gaps are filled in.

The FCC should get some help next week from the Department of Commerce, which is releasing a congressionally-mandated interactive online map of broadband availability.

The FCC also took steps as part of the order to reduce 20 current data-collection operations it has concluded are outdated.

FCC Commissioner Michael Copps concurred in the vote, which is short of a "yes" vote. His point was that seeking more information on a framework was short of the action he felt had already been teed up by past inquiries. "In 2008, I concurred with the Commission's further notice on many of these questions because I believed it was time then for a final Order detailing the kinds and amounts of data the Commission needs to protect American consumers," said Copps. "While I am more optimistic now that we will get action soon, consistency compels me to concur this time, too, on the first Notice before us today, the Form 477 NPRM [Notice of Proposed Ruilemaking.  I look forward to the third time being the charm with a final Order in the very near term."

Free Press, which is aligned with Copps on a number of issues, was in agreement in no uncertain terms.

Saying the FCC was asking questions that had already been answered, Free Press Research Derek Turner said ""It is simply stunning that on the same day the FCC is proposing to hand over billions to industry to build broadband networks [the FCC also voted on Universal Service Reforms], it is still asking whether it's a good idea for the agency to collect basic data about where broadband is deployed and how much it costs."

Last week, the FCC approved on circulation (a vote not at a public meeting) to make other data-collection improvements, including closing up to 1,000 but dormant proceedings and to allow bureaus to reject procedurally defective of otherwise defective appeals of FCC decisions without having to refer them to the full commission.

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.