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Archive for June 2010

More Free Data

June 4th, 2010 by John Horrigan - Consumer Research Director, Ombnibus Broadband Initiative.

Today, the FCC is releasing the raw dataset that was the basis for two recently released reports. One, released on May 26, was on bill shock and early termination fees. It is entitled “Americans’ perspectives on early termination fees and bill shock.” The second report, released earlier this week, is entitled “Americans’ perspectives on online connection speeds for home and mobile devices.

The survey that was the basis for these reports covered a lot of ground, and the two reports we recently released did not cover all of it. In the coming weeks and months, the FCC will release findings analyzing other questions from this survey. For that reason, the data released today does not include all data from the April-May 2010 survey, but data only on those questions analyzed in the two reports.

The package of data comes in two files:

1) Raw data: Delivered in SPSS format, which is a popular program for statistical analysis of data. It is a format most other statistical programs can read.

2) Questionnaire: This file explains in detail the structure of the SPSS file, and will be of interest mainly to those wishing to do their own analysis of the data. You will find that the questionnaire contains all the survey’s questions – but not the results.

The FCC has a commitment to transparency in conducting the analysis that helps shape its work. We hope interested members of the public benefit from having access to the data. Enjoy!

 

More on Speed: Just How Satisfied Are Customers?

June 2nd, 2010 by Joel Gurin - Chief of the Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau

Our survey report on broadband speed yesterday attracted national attention and some additional questions. We've been asked for more detail on our findings about customer satisfaction with broadband speed. As we reported, 91 percent of fixed broadband customers are "very" or "somewhat" satisfied with that service, compared to 71 percent who are satisfied with the speed of mobile broadband. A closer look gives a fuller picture.

For fixed broadband, 50 percent of customers were very satisfied with the service overall, 41 percent were somewhat satisfied, 6 percent were "not too" satisfied, and 3 percent were not satisfied at all.

For mobile broadband, we asked specifically about satisfaction with speed, a slightly different question. Here, the numbers were lower: 33 percent very satisfied, 38 percent somewhat satisfied, 8 percent not too satisfied, and 5 percent not satisfied at all. (The other 14 percent said they didn't know.)

What to make of these numbers? A few things.

First, consumers are fairly well satisfied with the speed of the broadband they get at home. Having 50 percent say they are "very satisfied" is a strong showing, although it still leaves room for improvement. Even if people are satisfied with their home broadband speed, however, they may be paying hundreds of dollars a year more than they need to. Consumers still need better information to know what speed they need for the applications they run. And given the split between "very" and "somewhat" satisfied customers, more information on broadband speed would also help consumers choose between different providers.

For mobile broadband, the lower numbers show that this service still has a way to go to improve customer satisfaction - which is especially important as more people turn to mobile for their primary Internet connection. It's technologically harder to deliver high speeds by mobile, so the satisfaction gap between fixed and mobile broadband is understandable. But consider that satisfaction with mobile service overall - not broadband speed specifically - is quite high, with 59 percent very satisfied and 33 percent somewhat so. A decade ago, that satisfaction rate might have been hard to imagine. The wireless industry has made tremendous strides in innovation and service quality overall, and we can expect improvements in mobile broadband speed as well.

Accurate measurements of mobile broadband speed can be a boost to innovation. These measures can help wireless carriers learn more about where their networks function best and where they may fall short. Most consumers now have a choice of mobile broadband providers, and will be able to use these new measures to choose the providers who will serve them best.  Consumer choice, in turn, can increase competition, innovation, and ultimately help lead to better broadband service for all.

[Cross-posted from the Official FCC Blog]

Connecting America’s Stories: Going Green with Telework

June 2nd, 2010 by Page Schindler Buchanan

Our country is buzzing about energy.  Americans are taking a hard look at how we collect and use oil.  Hybrid technology is changing the auto industry.  Debates about foreign oil, nuclear power and wind farms are happening on local and national levels. We know we need to reduce our energy consumption. The big question is how.

When we asked you about broadband in your lives, energy was on your minds too.  And one simple, yet powerful answer to the big “how” question you shared is to have reliable, affordable broadband.

Adam in Newberry, South Carolina

As a microeconomic example of how broadband is 'green'--my wife would be able to work from home several days a week if higher-end access were available to us, thereby reducing the need for her 60 mile roundtrip commute every working day. While I agree that we must also diversify our energy sources and systems, what purpose will green energy systems serve if many of our citizens are forced to relocate to remain gainfully employed?

Americans live outside of urban areas for many reasons – family, economics, health, environment, community and just personal preference.  Yet many face a double edged sword for living off the beaten path: a long commute and lack of access to broadband internet.

Sherilyn in Gregory, Michigan

I live in southeast Michigan in an area where I cannot receive cable, DSL or broadband services. My current commute is 103 miles round trip daily to my job. I have the opportunity to work from home if I am able to obtain high speed internet service in my home. Having expanded service in my rural area would provide an opportunity for me to save energy by eliminating over 500 miles a week that I am commuting to my place of employment in addition to positive environmental impacts with less emissions. I work with others in the same situation and feel that the provision of high speed internet is a step in the right direction to lower our dependence on oil while technologically advancing our communities.

The National Broadband Plan makes several recommendations to expand access to rural America and promote telework.  The plan notes:

The average American spends more than 100 hours per year commuting; 3.5 million people spend more than 90 minutes commuting to work each way every workday. …

Every additional teleworker reduces annual CO2 emissions by an estimated 2.6-3.6 metric tons per year.67 Replacing 10% of business air travel with videoconferencing would reduce carbon emissions by an estimated 36.3 million tons annually.

The plan calls on Congress to eliminate tax barriers to telework (working across state lines can sometimes result in being taxed twice!), and encourages the federal government to make telework easier for its employees.

Just as importantly, its recommendations aim to make broadband available to every American who wants it.  The reasons people lack access are complicated, having to do with cost, business models, infrastructure and the patchwork of regulations and laws across counties and states.  It won’t be simple or easy, but the FCC is already taking steps to expand access to rural Americans.

John in Lincolnton, North Carolina

I live in a bedroom community of Charlotte and work for a major bank. I'm allowed to work from home, but because I have only access to wireless networks (and that only recently), I have to drive 40 miles one way frequently just to work. Think of the oil I could save and the contribution to clean air I could make if I only had options.

Like Adam, Sherilyn and John, many of you have shared your frustrations and hopes for your rural communities and the environment.  We know that conserving energy and preserving the environment are just two of many factors that make broadband an important element in your lives.  Please continue to share your stories, and stay tuned to this blog for more information on how the plan addresses issues affecting Americans.
 

Broadband Speed: When Ignorance is Costly

June 1st, 2010 by Joel Gurin - Chief of the Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau

For several months, the FCC has been working to help consumers get more information about the communications services they buy. Our Notice of Inquiry last August asked how we can help consumers make more informed choices about phone, television, and broadband services. That Notice brought out a lot of good ideas from public interest groups, the communications industries, and consumers themselves.

This year, we’ve followed up with a number of consumer initiatives coordinated by the FCC’s Consumer Task Force. We’ve written letters to wireless carriers about their early termination fees, taken on the problem of bill shock, and started to look at broadband speed.

Today, we’re releasing the results of a national survey that shows just how large the information gap is when it comes to broadband. According to this survey, fully 80 percent of Americans with broadband at home don’t know what speed they’re getting. This survey was done through a major firm and drew on a national sample of three thousand consumers.

This ignorance can be costly: The difference between a low-cost, slower broadband plan and a high-speed, more expensive one can be hundreds of dollars a year. In order to get the best service at the best value, consumers first need to understand what broadband speed they need for the applications they want to run. In addition, broadband service providers need to advertise their speeds in clear terms, and consumers need to be assured that the speeds they actually receive match what’s advertised. While broadband providers now advertise “blazing fast” internet service at “up to” a certain speed, that’s not specific enough to help consumers make informed choices.

Today, we’re taking two steps to help both consumers and service providers learn more about how broadband speed is being delivered:


It will take the FCC, public interest groups, and broadband service providers working together to help consumers understand their “need for speed.” The Cable Television Association, and several other broadband service providers, have already supported the FCC’s efforts to develop scientific tests of home broadband speed. We’re confident that we can all work together in the months ahead to turn consumer ignorance into consumer information.

[Cross-posted on the Official FCC Blog]

Sign up to Shape the Future of Broadband

June 1st, 2010 by Dave Vorhaus - Expert Advisor, Economic Opportunity

Last month, we announced that the FCC had selected a third-party vendor to help conduct a scientific, hardware-based test of actual broadband speeds and performance delivered by ISPs to consumers’ homes. Along with our partner, SamKnows, we aim to provide greater transparency in the broadband market by gathering and publishing information on the service consumers get, rather than simply what is advertised. We’ll be measuring upload and download speeds, but also other important characteristics of broadband performance such as latency, jitter, availability, packet loss and more. This effort represents the first scientific, hardware-based, national test of broadband performance. 

Now that we’ve finished crossing the Ts and dotting the Is, we are ready to begin recruiting volunteers to help us with this critically important effort. The FCC and SamKnows will be constructing a panel of 10,000 volunteers that will form the Broadband Community that is the basis for this study. We’d like to encourage everyone that is interested to go to www.TestMyISP.com and sign up to participate. Don’t be fooled by the URL though; this is not your run-of-the-mill online speed test. After we have recruited a panel that runs the gamut of geographies, service providers and broadband packages, we will be shipping every selected participant a customized router that can be easily connected to your existing in-home network.

Once that hardware device is connected, you are off and running! This custom router will test your broadband performance at regular intervals, all day, every day, throughout the course of this study. Each participant will also be given access to a unique page with their individual broadband performance statistics, so you can see whether what you are getting matches what you are paying for. And in the aggregate, these data will be used to provide valuable information to the FCC, ISPs and the general public about how our broadband networks are performing across the country. Along with other items on the FCC’s Broadband Action Agenda that are improving data collection and transparency, this is a critical step in fostering competition and maximizing consumer benefits across the broadband ecosystem.

If this sounds like something you would like to be apart of, please sign-up as a volunteer for the panel.



Capture The Phone Numbers Using Your Camera Phone

If you have a camera and a 2D matrix code reader on your mobile phone, you can capture the FCC Phone numbers right to your phone by following these three easy steps:
Step 1: Take a photograph of one of the codes below using the camera on your mobile phone.
Step 2: Use your phone's Datamatrix or QR Code reader to decode the information on the photograph. Please note, these code readers are device specific and are available to download on the internet.
Step 3: Store the decoded address information to your phone's address book and use it with your Maps or GPS application.

Datamatrix and QR FCC Phones