Mayors from 35 cities have sent a letter to the FCC demanding standardized broadband performance standards following a GAO investigation that highlighted significant discrepancies in broadband performance.
According to the GAO report, consumers have a variety of options to get bits and pieces of information about their broadband performance. Speed testing and ISP information are currently available, but there is no single place to find baseline data about networks. The report also notes that the FCC itself has taken steps to provide more information but is still lacking when it comes to establishing clear cut and comparable performance metrics among broadband networks.
FCC should take additional steps to evaluate its efforts to provide consumers with broadband performance information. This should include: (1) conducting or commissioning research on the effectiveness of its efforts and making the results publicly available, and (2) establishing performance goals and measures that allow FCC to monitor and report on these efforts. FCC concurred with GAO’s recommendations. – Recommendation from the GAO report
The letter was coordinated by Next Century Cities, a public interest group pushing for better national broadband access. Cities signing the letter include major metropolitan areas such as Boston, Kansas City, and Seattle, as well as smaller communities such as Mount Vernon, WA, Salisbury, NC and Yellow Springs, OH.
City leaders encourage the FCC to heed the recommendations of the GAO, consider standardized measurement of network performance, and develop easily-comprehensible materials to communicate this information to citizens. The signers feel strongly that reliable, understandable information is critical for citizens and governments alike as they seek to develop next-generation broadband Internet.
“Our communities represent a cross-section of American towns and cities, large and small, urban and rural, from across the country. Yet in spite of our numerous differences, we are united by a common conviction that high-quality broadband Internet access is necessary infrastructure for the 21st century, as essential as good roads and reliable electricity. We know that fast, affordable, and reliable next-generation Internet networks are the key to building and sustaining thriving communities.
In theory, consumers should be able to compare their broadband options. While your commission requires Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to report their broadband performance, the GAO report found that ISPs are not required to report this information in a standardized way. This means that consumers trying to compare internet speed information are too often unable to make accurate comparisons. Compounding this issue, the technical language used in FCC reports makes this material tricky for consumers to understand,” the letter says.