Monday, May 08, 2006

GAO Finds Flaws With FCC Broadband Estimates

GAO developed its own model for broadband analysis using the Form 477 data as well as numbers from a private-industry research firm, which seems to suggest the FCC’s conclusions are too optimistic. Among its conclusions, GAO found that only 17 percent of rural households subscribe to broadband services, significantly lower than urban and suburban households. “Our model indicated, however, that when the availability of broadband to households, as well as demographic characteristics, are taken into account, rural households no longer appear less likely than urban households to subscribe to broadband,” GAO said.

The emergence of satellite Internet alternatives to cable modem and DSL is a factor that complicates broadband penetration calculations. “It is not clear how satellite service should be judged in terms of deployment,” the report finds. “Since it is available throughout the entire country, one view could be that broadband is near fully deployed. Alternatively, it could be viewed that satellite broadband—while available in most areas—does not reflect localized deployment of broadband infrastructure and should therefore not be counted as a deployed broadband option at all.”

Item at NRTC Update

This blogger agrees. The California Public Utilities Commission also committed the satellite cop out in its May 2005 legislatively mandated report on broadband access in California wherein the CPUC concluded that "broadband service is available to every Zip Code in the state," although conceding that not every customer who wants it has service and some may be limited to satellite-based service that the CPUC admitted "tends to cost more and can be of lower quality."

Satellite is fine for TV, but it shouldn't been seen as an option (and an expensive one at that) for broadband services except possibly for those who inhabit the most remote areas of the nation.

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