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CPI Sues FCC Over U.S. Broadband Competition 137

Posted by Zonk
from the getting-at-the-info dept.
seriouslywtf writes "The Center for Public Integrity (CPI) wants to access data from the FCC on broadband subscriptions in various parts of the US, but the FCC won't hand it over. Why? Because the FCC thinks giving the CPI the data will give a competitive advantage to the other broadband companies. The FCC says everything is fine and has generated reports saying nothing needs to be done. From the article: 'But the agency's methods for generating these reports have come under scrutiny, and CPI wants to take a look for itself. When talking about broadband deployment, for instance, the FCC says that any particular ZIP code has broadband access if even a single cable or DSL connection exists there. It also classes "broadband" as anything above 200kbps — a woefully low standard for any true broadband connection.'"
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CPI Sues FCC Over U.S. Broadband Competition

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  • from TFA: "CPI now finds itself in a District Court battle against the agency, which is being supported by AT&T, Verizon, and the three major industry trade groups: NCTA (cable), CTIA (wireless), and USTA (telephone)."
    • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      so they will report it any way they like it... and you, dear consumer, will like it...
    • by morgan_greywolf (835522) on Tuesday January 23, 2007 @12:41PM (#17724632) Homepage Journal
      from TFA: "CPI now finds itself in a District Court battle against the agency, which is being supported by AT&T, Verizon, and the three major industry trade groups: NCTA (cable), CTIA (wireless), and USTA (telephone)."


      Of course. Personally, I think the broadband providers have all illegally divided up the market. In most areas, you can get DSL, cable, FTTN, or wireless, but rarely can you seem to be able pick from more than one in the list. And in many cases, you can't even pick between cable providers.

      While both WOW! and Comcast are available in my area, my apartment complex has an exclusive contract with Comcast so no other cable providers are allowed. And you can't get DSL because they won't let you run any lines to the building. Satellite is out because they won't let you put up a dish (despite the fact that this is illegal), and broadband mobile wireless service is conveniently not available yet.

      Many cities in my region have exclusive deals with either Comcast or Bright House as well, despite the fact that competition was supposed to have been opened. Many of the competitve phone carriers don't offer DSL because AT&T has locked them out. And DSL is very much dependant on distance from the CO. Forget if you're like me and live in an outlying area of town.

      I'll bet if you get that report, you'll be able to figure out exactly how AT&T and Comcast and so forth have divided up the market, providing each of them limited monopolies in set areas.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Xaoswolf (524554)
        it's illegal for them to tell you that you can't bolt a dish to their building?
        • There are other options that don't involve bolting a dish to the building. A 5 gallon bucket with concrete is possible or maybe the apartments are really duplexes with some amount of yard space (which is my situation) where a post can be put into the ground (as one of my neighbors has done). Personally, I have Verizon FiOS (broadband and TV) after leaving Comcast but that is a relatively recent alternative to the Comcast strangle hold on the county I'm in.
        • That's the loophole.

          They can't tell you that you can't have a satellite dish. That's what the state law states. But they can tell you that you can't bolt it to their building. So if you have a private balcony, as long as you have something else to bolt it to, you're ok. But if you don't have a private balcony, or if it's too small, or if there's no clear line of sight with the correct portion of the sky, you're out of luck.

        • No, but it is illegal to say that you cannot put a dish in a bucket of cement on your own (not shared) balcony. This rule only pertains to TV antennas and satellite dishes 1 meter or less in diameter and this law is in the United States.
          • by Creepy (93888)
            specifically, you're referring to this FCC rule [fcc.gov]

            it essentially says you can put a 1m or less dish anywhere you own or rent, but you can't put it anywhere you don't own or rent (so if you're on the wrong side of the apartment, you may not have a choice).

            not only TV and Satellite dishes, but radio and wireless antennas as well (so called fixed signal antennae).
        • it's illegal for them to tell you that you can't bolt a dish to their building?
          that you're paying to live in?
          • by Dravik (699631)
            Paying to live in a building doesn't mean you can modify that building how you want, ie bolt something to it. If you want to put bolts in your walls buy your own building.
        • by tepp (131345)
          Actually I ended up doing a bit of research on this very topic, since I decided that I really was not going to put up with Millenium Cable (the exclusive provider) for my Condo.

          It is illegal to tell someone they cannot put up a dish under a certain size. However, it is legal for them to say that you cannot damage the exterior of the building by driving screws, nails, bolts etc into the side. So while you can own a dish, can wave it around proudly, you cannot affix it in any way that damages the building.

          My
          • Forget clamping the dish ONTO the railing.

            While' you're allowed to have it in your private use balcony, not one inch of the dish or your mounting hardware can stick out past the railing - that's no longer a private area.
        • There are rarely Wireless ISPs (excluding satelite) in areas which are well serviced by Cable.

          I'm presumably in the minority since I have Wireless, Cable and (several) DSL options here. The wireless turns out to be the most expensive, slowest download and fastest upload of the bunch. I like them because they are local and have competent tech support, but i doubt they are a serious threat to the big guys :(
        • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

          by pixelite (20946)
          That depends...

          Generally, users may install a satellite dish that is 1 meter (39.37 inches) or less on their own property or property on which they have the exclusive use, such as leased or rented property. In Section 207 of the Telecommunications Act of 1996, Congress adopted the Over-the-Air Reception Devices Rule. This rule applies to governmental and nongovernmental restrictions imposed on a consumer's ability to receive video programming signals from direct broadcast satellites, wireless cable provider
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by ciscoguy01 (635963)
        The broadband providers are doing everything they can to keep pesky competition away. That's natural and normal for a business, but the facts are they are mostly what has always been regulated utilities. Uh, except in there "new media" markets.

        They own the copper wires running all over town to bring you your telephone and your dsl.
        But they don't really own them, WE the ratepayers hired them to build them. WE own them.
        Remember those PUC "rate cases"? Where they say "we had to build new wires here, a
      • While both WOW! and Comcast are available in my area, my apartment complex has an exclusive contract with Comcast so no other cable providers are allowed. And you can't get DSL because they won't let you run any lines to the building. Satellite is out because they won't let you put up a dish (despite the fact that this is illegal), and broadband mobile wireless service is conveniently not available yet.

        Sounds like a business opportunity for fixed wireless to me. If there's truly as much a need as you say

        • Or be the fixed wireless provider myself for my complex and bring in the $$$$$.

          Don't you think I already thought of this? :-D
    • This is inevitable (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Colin Smith (2679) on Tuesday January 23, 2007 @12:46PM (#17724686)
      It's called Regulatory Capture [wikipedia.org]. And one of the reasons that the cry "the government should..." isn't the answer.
       
      • by geekoid (135745)
        As a government body the people have an avenue for redress. If it was private, then we would have no such avenue.

        And if there wasn't a government agency controlling it, then all the airwaves would belong to the biggest private bully.

        • by Colin Smith (2679)

          As a government body the people have an avenue for redress.

          Didn't you read the article? The FCC is being sued, and that's just to get hold of information.
          Information which sounds like is inaccurate or manipulated.

          then all the airwaves would belong to the biggest private bully.

          Whereas today they belong to whomever provides the biggest backhander, what exactly is different? Regulatory capture removes the people from the equation even considering the naive belief that the government ever works for the benefit of the people.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Ash Vince (602485)
        But there are plenty of other countries where state regulation of industries like broadband, other telecoms, transportation, energy (gas and electric) and television do result in better service for the consumer at less cost. So why is that these schemes always fail in the states yet in other countries they work fine?

        In europe regulatory bodies seem to have alot more success with out becomming corrupted by the companies they are supposed to regulate. I know absolutely nothing about why these things happen in
        • Would the US constitution allow the government to form a body which could effectively dictate prices to a company without the company getting any say in the matter? Would anyone in america actually vote for a government that did such things or would they get labelled as communists long before they came into office?

          I should certainly hope not.

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by Colin Smith (2679)

          do result in better service for the consumer at less cost.
          Really... There are 25 regulatory bodies for each sector in the EU. One for each member country. Whether that leads to cheaper better service, I ... doubt... However it does make it very difficult for one or three major players in the market to corrupt the regulators for their own purposes.

          I'm inclined to suppose that a monopoly of government begets monopolies in commerce.

           
          • by Alef (605149)

            Whether that leads to cheaper better service, I ... doubt...

            Why do you doubt that? Do you have any information to support that assumption, or are you only basing it on knowledge of the situation in the US? I can give counterexample, where deregulations have resulted in significantly higher prices. (Power prices in Sweden, for instance.)

            I'm inclined to suppose that a monopoly of government begets monopolies in commerce.

            Care to elaborate on that connection? I'm rather inclined to suppose monopolies i

        • I don't know why federal agencies in the United States tend to get corrupted, but I have a guess: Sheer size. I'd bet that we'll be seeing similar things in the E.U. as pan-European regulatory bodies get formed. As the size of the market regulated increases, the sheer amount of funding that the industry can spend on lobbying increases as well - it's easy to turn down a $10,000 bribe - but if there's an "understanding" that you'll be hired for an executive position with a guaranteed $20,000,000 signing bonus

    • FTA:The agency argues that the material in the reports is confidential business information and that the release of it could damage the companies involved.

      What other industries can hide behind this excuse for existing services? D
    • by rlp (11898)
      > rom TFA: "CPI now finds itself in a District Court battle against the agency, which is being
      > supported by AT&T, Verizon, and the three major industry trade groups: NCTA (cable), CTIA
      > (wireless), and USTA (telephone)."

      Stockholm syndrome - FCC staff spend so much time with the people they are regulating, that they've forgotten they're supposed to be working for us.
  • FOIA? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by joshetc (955226) on Tuesday January 23, 2007 @12:34PM (#17724526)
    Doesn't the request fall under FOIA? Which basically means the FCC has to give the information up. If this isn't the case would someone kindly enlighten me?
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by ryanguill (988659)
      From TFA:
      CPI filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request with the FCC on August 24. After the statutory 20 business days had passed without any word from the agency, CPI filed suit on September 25, 2006. That apparently got the FCC's attention; the FOIA request was officially denied the next day.
      Apparently the FCC doesn't think so...
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by PopeRatzo (965947) *

        The Center for Public Integrity (CPI) wants to access data from the FCC on broadband subscriptions in various parts of the US, but the FCC won't hand it over. Why? Because the FCC thinks giving the CPI the data will give a competitive advantage to the other broadband companies.

        What a strange way for the FCC to put it: They don't want to release the subscription data because it will give a competitive advantage to the "other broadband companies". Who are they referring to here? The CPI isn't a broadband c

    • Re:FOIA? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Intron (870560) on Tuesday January 23, 2007 @12:45PM (#17724684)
      http://www.fcc.gov/foia/#typesnot [fcc.gov]

      This lists the 9 exemptions allowed for refusing FOIA requests. Bureaucratic obstinance doesn't seem to be on the list.
      • Re:FOIA? (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Mr. Underbridge (666784) on Tuesday January 23, 2007 @01:03PM (#17724968)

        This lists the 9 exemptions allowed for refusing FOIA requests. Bureaucratic obstinance doesn't seem to be on the list.

        No, but this is, and I imagine that's what they'll quote:

        "4. Trade secrets and commercial or financial information obtained from a person and privileged or confidential"

        I'm sure they'll say the respective companies' detailed coverage and speed maps would be useful to the competition, blah, blah.

        • I missed the part where corporations were defined as "a person".

          Unless these maps are deemed "trade secrets", I would expect that the info is fair game.

          Detailed coverage and speed maps may be useful to the competition, but I dont think information which can otherwise be obtained through legal pretexting methods is considered "trade secrets".
          • by Dravik (699631)
            Corporations have legally been considered persons for 300-400 years now.
          • by macwhiz (134202)

            I missed the part where corporations were defined as "a person".

            You sure did.

            A quick look at dict.org [dict.org] turned up the following legal definition of "corporation" from 1856:

            CORPORATION. An aggregate corporation is an ideal body, created by law, composed of individuals united under a common name, the members of which succeed each other, so that the body continues the same, notwithstanding the changes of the individuals who compose it, and which for certain purposes is considered as a natural person.

        • by kevinadi (191992)
          I'm confused. Do we want or don't want competition? I'm maybe misunderstanding this, but it sounds like FCC is encouraging monopoly practices. Besides, I don't think anything advertised to the customer can count as a trade secret.
      • Presumably they're relying on this one:

        "Although most FCC documents, records, and publications are accessible through FOIA, some types of FCC records are not available. Section 552(b) of the FOIA contains nine types of records which are routinely exempt from disclosure under the FOIA:
        ...
        4. Trade secrets and commercial or financial information obtained from a person and privileged or confidential, 5 U.S.C 552(b)(4);"
      • 4. "Trade secrets and commercial or financial information obtained from a person and privileged or confidential, 5 U.S.C 552(b)(4);"

        If you read the article, they give a perfectly legitimate example of why they feel they don't want to release it, and a reasonable reason of why telcos don't want it released. Not some great conspiracy.

        The arguement behind exception number 4 is that they wont be able to conduct any studies if information that can hurt the people who try to help the agency becomes public knowle
        • by Intron (870560)
          I did read the article. Why do people always put "if you read the article" in their replies? That's really condescending. I also looked at Form 477 - an Excel spreadsheet which is the disputed information.

          There are no trade secrets in the form.

          There is no confidential information in the form.

          There is no competitive advantage to anyone from releasing the data, since they would be releasing it for everybody.

          The idea that companies will mine FCC data to figure out where their competititors are spending thei
  • but I'm still waiting for the article to load.
    • Text if slashdotted (Score:3, Informative)

      by LotsOfPhil (982823)
      The Center for Public Integrity (CPI) wants to find out exactly how competitive the US broadband market is. To do that, it needs access to the raw data collected by the FCC, but the agency has refused to turn it over on the grounds that it could give a competitive advantage to other companies. CPI now finds itself in a District Court battle against the agency, which is being supported by AT&T, Verizon, and the three major industry trade groups: NCTA (cable), CTIA (wireless), and USTA (telephone).
      CPI w
  • I can see no reasonable argument why this data can't be public record. In fact, if it was public record, that would negate the "fears" the FCC has of it being a competitive advantage to one company over another.

    I think probably the whole mission of the FCC is more in iconic thing -- "don't worry, the government is in control!" -- and this data getting out would result in a lot of people asking WTF is up with the FCC if they can't put together a proper report.
    • by xeromist (443780)

      In fact, if it was public record, that would negate the "fears" the FCC has of it being a competitive advantage to one company over another.
      The "fear" is that another company will find out that for example: Verizon is focusing on a build out in your neighboring city but ignoring yours. Another company could then move in quickly to offer services where they know Verizon is weak.

      So while their "fear" would likely come true, it has nothing to do with protecting the public.
      • [quote]Another company could then move in quickly to offer services where they know Verizon is weak.[/quote]

        Problem is that other company would still end up either (a) dealing with Verizon or whoever else owns the lines or (b) running their own lines. Neither one of those seems to be an endeavour that would be undertaken lightly.

        The only "fear" they should have is that if this gets released, people might start asking questions and end up realizing ISPs and the FCC are in cahoots and get slapped with some n
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by drooling-dog (189103)
      I think probably the whole mission of the FCC is more in iconic thing -- "don't worry, the government is in control!"

      A more cynical and accurate view would be that the FCC is beholden to the industry it's supposed to be regulating, and like the rest of the executive branch has little or no concept of any public interest to be upheld. The commissioners and other top bureaucrats there know who's going to be buttering their bread when they leave government service in a couple of years.
  • but it's faster than dialup, and if that's how one is drawing the line (i.e., broadband is anything that isn't dialup), then 200kbps is probably as good a number as any. I seem to recall that my first ISDN connection was only 128kbps.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by ari_j (90255)
      I think 200Kbps is perfectly fair, if not a bit high. What I don't like is the use of one connection per ZIP code as a fair measure of that entire ZIP code having broadband access. Some ZIP codes cover, say, a town of 1,500 people and the surrounding rural area where another 1,500 live. A cable or DSL provider in the town covers only half of the ZIP code's population but, under this measure, the entire ZIP code is deemed to have broadband access. ZIP codes are meant to make delivering mail easy, not to
      • by fjf33 (890896)
        It really does sound arbitrary but I guess it was just 'easy'. They could have gone with the breakdowns used for marketing. That is what corporations use so it would probably be a good 'free' consensus area. Not too small (because they don't want to spend too much money) and not too large (because then it looses all marketing value). Of course that may give them the wrong answer.
        • by ari_j (90255)
          I'd even be okay with ZIP codes if it weren't a binary statistic. There's a lot more to the story than whether or not a given ZIP code has broadband access. What portion of the population in a given ZIP code has access? What portion wouldn't pay for broadband access even if it were available? Things like that.
    • by F34nor (321515) *
      72k per pots line so I can talk and still have 1.7 lines open for data. That's broad enough for me. But then I live at the end of a pots line strung in the 1920's and they laugh when I ask for voice mail. Basically anyone who says 200 k is slow is an asshole or living in a fantasy world. If you aren't downloading othe people's movies or video games 200 k is ok. No don't get me wrong not OK for a business but that's not what this thread is about.
      • by zenyu (248067)
        Basically anyone who says 200 k is slow is an asshole or living in a fantasy world. If you aren't downloading othe people's movies or video games 200 k is ok.

        Hmm, I think 20 Mbps is slow, so I must be a super-duper asshole. Doing a day to day operation like 'svn up' would be incredibly slow on 0.2 Mbps, I can't image how long it would take to download security patches. I would think anybody connecting directly to the internet at that speed is probably a hazard to the internet as botnet node. If you are a bo
      • by pipatron (966506)
        Broadband is for downloading video. You'd be fine with your dial-up for anything else.
      • by rblum (211213)
        Funnily, I have 3 MBps, and that's ugly slow. Even funnier, I have an internal Gigabit network, and that's still quite slow for many things I do.

        Excuse us who actually *do* things with the network for wanting faster connections.

        Internet: Not just for surfing ASCII pr0n any more!
        • by F34nor (321515) *
          The funny thing is the three major conduit channels run past my house. Level 3, Qwest's classic train conduits, and one put in my US West before Qwest. Water water everywhere...

          My point is bandwidth is like money, you can't have too much for all practical purposes. Like money most people would have no idea what to do with anything more than one logarithmic step up. You can burn up a big pipe sending crap back and forth but for the ability to browse the web without having to walk away and wait for a page to
          • by rblum (211213)
            All I am saying is before you pull you cock out of your pants and say I have an OC48 sized penis bla bla bla, go and try and use the web with a 28.8 modem for 1 hour and tell me that 200 is slow.

            It's not about "penis size". 200kpbs is *too slow* for most websites. Max. wait time before people give up is about 4 seconds. That's about 100KB of data. If you're using image-rich sites, that's not much. 200kbps is not broadband. It's not a modem, but neither does it qualify as broadband in any developed country e
          • Yea, and back in my day we had to transmit bits as words over the telegraph:
            ZERO ONE ZERO ZERO ONE ZERO ZERO ZERO STOP

            Just because you think that surfing the web with images turned off and sending email is the whole value of the Internet doesn't mean that you're right. Streaming video is marginally possible at a couple of megs/second - and it's not just for porn either. Video conferencing is the overhyped application, but it could also replace public access television with something much more flexible. A

            • by F34nor (321515) *
              Well I'd argue that I'm right becasue I could use Skype with 200k.

              Me talk simple now. Big good. Small bad. 200 big enough to not cry like little girl.
    • yes thier definition of broadband is obviously designed not to count ISDN BRI (and i suspect there are other restrictions to discount leased lines which are way too expensive for homes/small buisnesses) but to count even the most crippled forms of dsl/cable.

    • The trouble is that "broadband" is a completely vague term. I seem to recall anything under 256kbps was labelled as "midband" here in the UK for a while until it died simply because no ISPs provided it when broadband became widespread.

      What's really necessary though is a specific rule on performance for what can be called broadband. Whether that's a specific speed in kbps or some kind of equation based on the average users supposed bandwidth requirement for a given year (ie. a bandwidth equivalent of the Ret [wikipedia.org]
      • by Phisbut (761268)

        The trouble is that "broadband" is a completely vague term. I seem to recall anything under 256kbps was labelled as "midband" here in the UK for a while until it died simply because no ISPs provided it when broadband became widespread.

        Using any kind of pseudo-superlative to describe a current technology is a bad idea since it will be obsolete in a couple of years. Up here in Québec, "broadband" cable internet has been available for many years now through Videotron [videotron.com]. When it all started, they labeled t

    • Since my parents live and try to do business out of a house where the fastest connection they can get is 26k (on a good day), I'd kill for 200kbps "broadband".
    • Time Warner Cable's Roadrunner just went 10mbps in NY. They give us that to justify 50+$ a month? I'd rather have 5Mbps and pay $25. Since I'm a wireless-B user anyway, I'm only getting 400KBps throughput anyway (3.2mbps). I also would rather have them up the upload speed. Running a TS server, VPN server, and a CSS server is a tad laggy.
      • by spxero (782496)
        802.11b? [wikipedia.org]

        Isn't the throughput on that 11Mbps? There must be a fair amount of interference if you're only getting 3.2Mbps
    • by gad_zuki! (70830)
      Agreed theres nothing wrong with using 200kbps as a metric. Its pretty much saying 'anything but phone modems and ISDN' which is good enough as any definition. If they upped to a more crowd pleasing number than I would imagine many ISPs would claim 'top speeds of x' with x being some datarate thats possible but unattainable.
    • by tknd (979052)
      Sure, it is a metric but I still think it is a poor one because it does not account for the improvements in technology. A better metric would be the average broadband speed available to consumers. Compare that metric to other countries and you'll have much better data on how competitive and advanced the U.S. market is compared to other countries.

      But we all know that that number is probably going to be much lower so of course the FCC and all of it's corporate buddies want to paint a different picture.
    • but it's faster than dialup, and if that's how one is drawing the line (i.e., broadband is anything that isn't dialup), then 200kbps is probably as good a number as any. I seem to recall that my first ISDN connection was only 128kbps.

      Maybe we needs to categorize broadband in the amount of bandwidth for suitable doing a certain task, such as streaming music, watching streaming video, etc. The other possibility simply categorize anything below 1Mbit/s as lowband (low broadband)?
  • Things like this are what are the cause of the dismal internet connection in the US.
  • Why not just make it available to any company that wants to see it?
    • by compro01 (777531)
      Why not just make it available to any company that wants to see it?

      stop tryin' to use that logic stuff here, boy. we don't work that way 'round here.
    • by fjf33 (890896)
      Because then the terrorists would have the plans to a critical infrastructure. In the war on terror we have to ALWAYS be mindful of what information we leak to Al-qaeda and its followers. It is a good think they can block disclosure under the PATRIOT act if the liberal courts force the FAA to do this under FOIA. I think the administration is much better at understanding the risks since they have all the information available.
  • by xxxJonBoyxxx (565205) on Tuesday January 23, 2007 @12:41PM (#17724648)
    Here's a better link with more details... http://www.publicintegrity.org/telecom/report.aspx ?aid=837 [publicintegrity.org]
  • by Billosaur (927319) * <wgrother AT optonline DOT net> on Tuesday January 23, 2007 @12:43PM (#17724664) Journal

    The General Accounting Office, the federal government's internal watchdog agency, took the FCC to task (PDF) last May for the way it prepared these reports. The GAO's own examination of Form 477 data found that the median number of broadband options in a particular ZIP code was two, not eight as the FCC claimed.

    CPI filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request with the FCC on August 24. After the statutory 20 business days had passed without any word from the agency, CPI filed suit on September 25, 2006. That apparently got the FCC's attention; the FOIA request was officially denied the next day.

    The matter is now in the hands of a federal judge, and the FCC is trying to have the case dismissed. The agency argues that the material in the reports is confidential business information and that the release of it could damage the companies involved. In a court filing, Alan Feldman of the FCC tells the court how this might work. "For example," he says, "information about how a company's number of lines has increased or decreased in a particular area over time provides competitors with insights into how that company is focusing its investment and marketing efforts." He also notes that most filers requested confidentiality for their data.

    When the GAO says you did something wrong, you generally did something wrong and need to fix it.

    The FCC's behavior is pretty brazen; the CPI isn't a broadband service provider, so I suspect that other than verifying the FCC's results (or disproving them), the data is in pretty good hands. The fact is the FCC is playing politics and trying to stay on the good side of industry -- for what reason I can't say. It would surprise me if there's more going on here, and if they keep stalling, the FCC could end up being threatened with a Congressional investigation, which I think they'd like to avoid.

    • by xeromist (443780)

      the CPI isn't a broadband service provider, so I suspect that other than verifying the FCC's results (or disproving them), the data is in pretty good hands.
      From what I understand CPI wants to post the information on their website to provide coverage information. While I agree that keeping this information secret is stupid it wouldn't just be seen by CPI.
    • Because the FCC thinks giving the CPI the data will give a competitive advantage to the other broadband companies.

      The FCC's behavior is pretty brazen; the CPI isn't a broadband service provider, so I suspect that other than verifying the FCC's results (or disproving them), the data is in pretty good hands.

      I think you hit on the key point here; The Center for Public Integrity [publicintegrity.org] isn't an ISP. they're a watchdog group, so the FCC's objection is nonsensical.

      It's like telling the police "I'm not going to

    • Has anyone considered contacting the FCC's Office of Inspector General about this issue?

      OIGs are around to prevent "Waste, Fraud, and Abuse", I'm sure this falls in there somewhere.
      And believe me, OIGs are not lapdogs to their respective organizations, I worked in one and our Agency wasn't fond of us...;)

      FCC OIG [fcc.gov]
      General Description of U.S. OIGs [wikipedia.org]
  • by Dissenter (16782) on Tuesday January 23, 2007 @12:49PM (#17724746)
    The FCC seems to be spending less time ensuring a competitive market for communications and wasting more time monitoring and sending out fines to radio and TV stations for using "bad language." I for one think that it is high time this group had a complete makeover. The people that are running things don't seem to have a clue about technology and the emerging markets that are being exploited by their lack of attention. This trend stinks of payoffs and corporate meddling. I'm not making any accusations as I have nothing but the smell to prove this idea, but when a group is trying to help generate more competition and the FCC refuses to support them it makes me wonder what's hiding under the covers. I'm no conspiracy maniac, but there's no way to see the FCC's position in a positive light.
  • Damnit, I couldn't find a single funny comment in this thread. What a tremendous waste of my working hours!
  • Per the article,

    The Center wants to make data about these companies publicly available online through Well Connected's Media Tracker, a free, Internet-based database of the radio, television, newspaper and cable companies that is searchable by ZIP code. Media Tracker was first released in 2003, and updated and expanded in October and November 2006.

    I could imagine that no broadband provider really wants that amount of transparency into their deployment. Each one will have markets that they are getting b

    • That makes sense (why companies wouldn't want the information released). If the companies wanted to release it, CPI wouldn't have to go to the FCC. The real question is why the FCC isn't giving Americans information that would be useful to them (us).
  • For country-bumpkin Joe Hicks, 25 KB/s is almost a four-fold increase on an unreliable dial-up connection that may or may not peak at 7 KB/s. Maybe not "broad" enough for most us /.'ers, but certainly broader than DUN.

    On that, should 1MB/s be considered Broadband? Either way, I'd say anything over the standard, consumer-level ISDN speeds of yore (ie, 128kbps) should be considered "broad".
  • Center for Public Integrity is the last bastion of real investigative journalism left in the US. You think any of the big Media outlets wanna piss-off the FCC with a story like this?

    Go get 'em CPI!!

  • Hypocrisy (Score:3, Insightful)

    by merc (115854) <slashdot@upt.org> on Tuesday January 23, 2007 @01:24PM (#17725280) Homepage
    "[T]he FCC thinks giving the CPI the data will give a competitive advantage to the other broadband companies."

    And forcing Google to turn over search engine data to the USDOJ is okay, but this isn't?
    • Last time I looked the FCC was a government agency, not a private company - big difference. Without the raw data you can't get a look at the actual specifics of broadband deployment in the United States. I also realize that telcos have "trade secret" data but that's the cost of being a telco. Telcos have recieved over $200 billion in tax breaks since 1996 designed to speed the deployment of high speed internet access. I suspect know if they actually did anything is worth knowing.
    • by Creepy (93888)
      heh - judging by the fact that everyone I've ever asked about DSL in my neighborhood only knows about "Qwest" and the cable monopoly is Comcast, the only advantage I see is bringing awareness that there are other choices in the market.

      Even my local newspaper only acknowledges Qwest and Comcast - I even e-mailed their main tech reporter a few years ago about maybe doing a piece on DSL choices and he emailed back that, in summary, it wasn't necessary because the other players were "niche" and "irrelevant" (so
      • by kevinadi (191992)
        If the FCC is supposed to encourage competition, then they've failed horribly. What I've noticed is that the choice in communications in the US is very limited compared to the rest of the world. Very frequently I heard that in an area, there's only two cell provider, one DSL, one cable, anything not more than two. I think so is in Canada, with Rogers the only provider in some area.

        Here in Australia, for cell we can choose between Telstra, Optus, Vodafone, Virgin, Boost, or any number of small providers, AFA
        • by Creepy (93888)
          The cell phone issue is mostly centered around early standards. The US telecoms chose the CDMA standard for digital before GSM was complete to get a jump on competition. The rest of the world waited and chose GSM as the standard, and the two technologies are incompatible with one another. While there have been some inroads for GSM in the United States (particularly late entries like the former Deutsch Telecom - now known as T-Mobile), there is still a large investment in CDMA and therefore it is the most
  • Digital Divide (Score:4, Insightful)

    by TheWoozle (984500) on Tuesday January 23, 2007 @01:44PM (#17725620)
    Personally, I think that what they're all really worried about is that the data will show that the communications companies have been very selective in rolling out broadband.

    They have cherry-picked specific, high-income areas in which to roll out. It's very likely that many areas will *never* get broadband service, if these companies get their way. And they're currenly involved in heavy lobbying and lawsuits to prevent other means of servicing the areas that they're not willing to service.

    I don't know what the ultimate solution should be, but broadband Internet access is vitally important to me (I work as a software engineer) and I hate that these companies and their services have such an impact on where I choose to live!
    • by bryan1945 (301828)
      Also, isn't Southwest Bell (or SBC, or whatever it is called now) still fighting about putting up regular phone lines to some rather rural areas in the southwest, as required by federal law?

      I have also read (mostly ancedotal) about cherry picked towns for broadband. From my own experience, while I was laid off from my tech job I did lawn service for a bit. I had an area of 5 counties in southeast Pennsylvania, and Verizon was doing a heck of a job installing fiber in the richer and newer developments, and
  • Because the FCC thinks giving the CPI the data will give a competitive advantage to the other broadband companies

    They should have played the terrorism/national security card. The quickest way to cover your mistakes, self dealing and lack of responsiveness is to scream: "But will be used by [Al Qaeda | North Korea | Iran | Commie-Nazis | Unitarians ] (or whatever the 'threat' du jour may be) to destroy our way of life!'.

    The courts don't have the back bone to challenge such claims, no matter how spurious.

    So r
  • by LMacG (118321) on Tuesday January 23, 2007 @02:17PM (#17726212) Journal
    A lot of replies are jumping on the line in the summary that says "the FCC thinks giving the CPI the data will give a competitive advantage to the other broadband companies." But of course the linked article didn't say that; it said "the agency has refused to turn it over on the grounds that it could give a competitive advantage to other companies." Which is still a bit of a stretch from what the FCC actually said in their response [publicintegrity.org].

    They did cite exemption rule 4 as others have posted.

    I'm not defending the FCC, by any means, but let's not be misled by a Slashdot summary that might not quite be correct.

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