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September 21, 2012

Objective Data Ignored at the FCC

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For all the talk of the FCC being data driven, the use of objective data is hard to find. A couple examples of the failure to take data into account were written about in "When the Referees Start Cheating" 

Earlier this week, FCC Chairman Genachowski labored to make an argument The Need for Speed, that the speed of broadband in the U.S. is less than adequate. But again, while the column included several data points, the fundamental point was left unsupported. In other words, "the need for speed" is simply asserted, an opinion that broadband speeds are not fast enough now.

As noted previously, the FCC has even tried to explain away its own data when it found that 91% of consumers were pleased with their broadband connection speed. Speeds and quality have only improved since then.

What the FCC seems too stubborn to learn is that consumers are not interested in speed as a number, rather they are interested in whether they can do online what they need to do.

Defining a broadband goal in terms of a numerical standard may be interesting for international data compilation, and perhaps appealing to those who think that Americans want to emulate Korea and live in tiny apartments in what are little more than giant concrete bunkers with government broadband pipes on which they can play computer games and otherwise interact with ‘real life.'  But measuring speed is simply the wrong approach. The question that needs to be asked is not ‘How fast is it?' but rather ‘Does the system perform to meet the needs of users/consumers/taxpayers in this case?

Even faster speeds may end up being important but only if there is a real reason–an unsupported opinion pronouncing a need is not enough.  And mere opinion should never be enough to move government policy.

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