NTIA Recommends Improvements to the FCC’s Broadband Data Collection

Broadband providers--including both wired and wireless providers--complete Form 477 to report where they offer service, as well as what speeds they offer and the technologies they use, among other information. The data collected through Form 477 constitute a critical resource for the National Telecommunication & Information Administration, as well as other policymakers and researchers who are interested in understanding Internet access in the United States. This week, in response to the Federal Communications Commission seeking ideas for how to improve its Form 477 data collection, NTIA filed comments recommending specific measures the FCC can take to enhance the program.

In the filing, NTIA recommends improvements to two aspects of the Form 477 program. First, the FCC should bolster the accuracy of the broadband availability data. During every reporting period, numerous providers from across the country, using a range of different methodologies, submit data on every Census block they serve. Such extensive data are bound to include some inaccuracies and differences based on providers' interpretations of reporting instructions. We recommend that the FCC implement a data validation program, and suggest looking to NTIA's previous work on the State Broadband Initiative, as well as the ongoing practices of various state programs, for examples of how it might verify broadband availability data. Further, we suggest creating a streamlined process through which members of the public can report possible inaccuracies. Second, the FCC could increase the accessibility of Form 477 data by making more information available and usable by a wider audience. Local and federal policymakers and researchers would find it helpful for the FCC to release datasets more quickly and have access to more information, such as the lowest--in addition to the highest--upload and download speeds being advertised by providers.

NTIA Recommends Improvements to the FCC’s Broadband Data Collection NTIA Comments on Modernizing the FCC Form 477 Data Program