Got Broadband?

Hawaii Sen. Daniel K. Inouye is behind a bill that would require several government agencies to provide better information about broadband internet service availability.

Our lawmakers need to know what they’re talking about before they start passing laws. Otherwise we get hilarious yet terrifying lectures about tubes. So as the debate over “Net Neutrality” rages on, it’s obvious government officials need better information about broadband availability and metrics.

The Broadband Data Improvement Act (S.1492), approved unanimously today by the Commerce Committee:

  • Directs the FCC to take another look at its 200 kilobit broadband standard, and further define a “second generation” service level that can minimally carry high-definition video.
  • Directs the FCC to study service availability at least annually, rather than “periodically.”
  • Directs the Census Bureau to ask about home computer use and dial-up versus broadband Internet access.
  • Directs the Government Accountability Office (GAO) and the Small Business Administration to conduct studies relating to broadband speed, availability, and cost, and their impact on both individuals and businesses.

The bill would also require broadband providers to provide more granular data about the areas they serve (down to the ZIP+4 level rather than just ZIP Code), and includes provisions for a $40 million annual matching grant program to study broadband adoption and barriers at the state level.

The bill is being debated on Slashdot, with commenters split on which side in the “Net Neutrality” debate will benefit most if it passes. While Inouye is not particularly well known for siding with the consumer when it comes to battles with big business. But his prepared remarks when introducing the bill sure sounded like a position statement:

“From our smallest rural hamlets to our largest urban centers, communities across this country should have access to the opportunities ubiquitous broadband can bring. The state of our broadband union should be broadband for all.”

Either way, it’s hard to argue against better information and greater transparency.

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