Shop Notes

Lots of Internet competition - just not at home

Posted: Aug. 4, 2010 | Tags: broadband, Connected, FCC, Federal Communication Commission

This post also appears in the PostTech blog written by Cecilia Kang of The Washington Post. We’re working together on a project for the next several months looking at disparities of broadband access in Washington, D.C. The Obama administration has promised to expand high-speed Internet connections to all American homes. We look here, in the backyard of the nation’s capital, at the quality, speed and price of connections for residents.

Please reach out to us at dunbar@american.edu and/or kangc@washpost.com with your thoughts, questions and suggestions.

At first glance, the broadband market in the nation's capital appears to be pretty competitive - at least as far as the Federal Communications Commission is concerned.

The agency reports there are 35 providers of high-speed Internet service in the District of Columbia. But a closer look reveals what D.C. residents already know – most folks are lucky if they have three to choose from.

The Investigative Reporting Workshop researched all the companies that provide broadband in the District and learned that of the 35, only eight serve residential customers. That would still be an impressive number, but of those eight, three are satellite providers, whose relatively slow speeds and high cost make them attractive only in rural areas. Two more – DC Access LLC and Cavalier Telephone LLC – provide service only in limited areas.

That leaves three: Comcast Corp., Verizon Communications Inc. and RCN Corp. (Not counting wireless providers AT&T Inc., Verizon Wireless, Sprint and T-Mobile.)

Coming up with a short list of providers in DC was a lot of work. Historically the FCC has refused to provide even the most basic information about broadband providers and their customers. The agency rarely names carriers and never provides specific information on price or connection speeds.

By Feb. 17, 2011, though, the government promises to cough up a little more information.

The National Telecommunications and Information Administration will post a “national broadband inventory map” on its website. The map will display broadband providers down to the Census block level. Unfortunately, no information on price or subscriber numbers will be provided and Internet connection speeds will be averaged over an entire metropolitan area.

The FCC’s “National Broadband Plan” concludes the government should do more. It should make sure consumers have “the pricing and performance information they need to choose the best broadband offers in the market.”

So far there’s been no action on the plan’s data recommendations.

FCC spokesman Mark Wigfield says the agency has taken action – through the launch of a broadband speed testing program, a “comprehensive initiative examining data collection and use policies” as  well as a public notice seeking input on how to measure mobile broadband performance. There may also be new rules proposed later in the year, he added.




Recent Posts

CIA whistleblower files health complaint in prison

The biggest surprise of the Barack Obama presidency to me and to many others has been what I have called “the unexpected national security obsessiveness” of his administration. Since 2009, the U.S. Department of Justice has repeatedly used the draconian 1917 Espionage Act to prosecute journalists’ sources, effectively criminalizing investigative journalism. Or as James Goodale, The New York Times’ lead lawyer during the seminal Pentagon Papers case put it in his recent memoir, “Obama has used the Espionage Act to indict more leakers than any president in the history of this country.” No president’s administration in the past century — indeed, all of them combined — has prosecuted more whistleblowing sources using the Espionage Act than the Obama administration.

 

Embracing life as a freelancer

After her summer as an intern at the Workshop in 2012 and completing her master's at the University of Missouri School of Journalism, Hilary Niles creates her own reality as a freelancer.

An inside look at Fatal Force series

Our recently published “Fatal Force: Two years after Ferguson, police shootings up,” a project with The Washington Post, is an extension of the Post’s Pulitzer Prize-winning series illuminating officer-involved shootings in the United States during 2015, as well as the first follow-up piece the Post published in 2016 that sought to find out how police departments handle releasing the names of officers who use fatal force.


 Subscribe to the RSS Feed

Archives

Twitter

Follow the workshop at IRWorkshop