For Immediate Release
Wednesday, June 17, 2015
Contact: Deb Socia
617-251-8358
deb@nextcenturycities.org

35 Mayors and Elected Officials Call for Accessible Broadband Performance Information Following GAO Investigation

Washington, DC (June 17, 2015) – Today, 35 mayors and city officials sent a letter to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC)  urging uniform and accessible reporting on broadband network performance. The letter, coordinated by Next Century Cities, was prompted by the findings of a recent Government Accountability Office (GAO) report, “BROADBAND PERFORMANCE: Additional Actions Could Help FCC Evaluate its Efforts to Inform Consumers.” Cities signing the letter include major metropolitan areas such as Boston, Kansas City, and Seattle, as well as smaller communities such as Mount Vernon, WA, Salisbury, NC and Yellow Springs, OH.

“The GAO report offers an opportunity to assess how we measure network performance,” said Deb Socia, Executive Director of Next Century Cities. “If we are truly committed to ensuring access to fast, affordable, and reliable broadband Internet, we need to think seriously about how we measure speed, cost, and reliability, and how we communicate this information to consumers.”

City leaders encourage the FCC to heed the recommendations of the GAO, consider standardized measurement of network performance, and develop easily-comprehensible materials to communicate this information to citizens. The signers feel strongly that reliable, understandable information is critical for citizens and governments alike as they seek to develop next-generation broadband Internet.

The GAO report found that current FCC requirements on network performance do not obligate providers to use standard measurements, while existing FCC reports on network performance are written in technical language that limits their usefulness to consumers. The officials signing onto the letter are members of Next Century Cities, a city-to-city initiative founded to support communities and their elected leaders as they seek to ensure that all have access to fast, affordable, and reliable Internet.

In support of this effort to provide clarity and transparency in the provision of broadband services, 35 Next Century Cities member communities wrote: “Efforts to develop this core infrastructure are impeded when our citizens are unable to accurately gauge the quality and speed of their Internet…As broadband Internet becomes increasingly critical to the well-being of towns and cities across the country, being able to reliably measure and compare network performance will help to ensure that we, as elected leaders, are delivering the essential infrastructure our communities need.”

The full letter is below:

Dear Chairman Wheeler and Commissioners Clyburn, Rosenworcel, Pai, and O’Rielly:

Our communities represent a cross-section of American towns and cities, large and small, urban and rural, from across the country. Yet in spite of our numerous differences, we are united by a common conviction that high-quality broadband Internet access is necessary infrastructure for the 21st century, as essential as good roads and reliable electricity. We know that fast, affordable, and reliable next-generation Internet networks are the key to building and sustaining thriving communities.

To help our communities access these critical opportunities, we have joined the city-to-city collaborative Next Century Cities, which supports local efforts to provide these networks. We are working to provide the high-quality Internet that is essential to thriving communities and remain deeply appreciative of the Commission’s ongoing efforts to safeguard the principle of local choice and empower more communities to achieve high-speed broadband Internet.

However, efforts to develop this core infrastructure are impeded when our citizens are unable to accurately gauge the quality and speed of their Internet. A recent report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO), entitled “BROADBAND PERFORMANCE: Additional Actions Could Help FCC Evaluate its Efforts to Inform Consumers,” has shed light on difficulties faced by consumers in obtaining this information and suggests steps your institution can take to help change these practices.

In theory, consumers should be able to compare their broadband options. While your commission requires Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to report their broadband performance, the GAO report found that ISPs are not required to report this information in a standardized way. This means that consumers trying to compare internet speed information are too often unable to make accurate comparisons. Compounding this issue, the technical language used in FCC reports makes this material tricky for consumers to understand.

Reliable information on performance is necessary to ensure that consumers can make informed decisions, drive competition, and incentivize faster, more reliable broadband service.

That is why we collectively ask that the Commission consider the findings and recommendations of the GAO, and work with ISPs and other stakeholders in developing uniform standards to allow easy and accurate assessment of Internet speeds.

As the report found, elements of this new and more effective assessment of broadband networks should include:

  • Universal standards required by ISPs for measuring broadband network speed and reliability incorporating readily-available information from sources such as consumer research; and
  • More accessible reports and resources on network performance from the FCC, directed at general readership.

Implementing these elements could be easily achieved through helpful actions, such as creating an easily-accessible database comparing performances of competing networks in a geographic region, and by convening an advisory panel of state and local leaders, as well as community advocates, to help curate and present the information to the general public and assess the success of these educational efforts.

As broadband Internet becomes increasingly critical to the well-being of towns and cities across the country, being able to reliably measure and compare network performance will help to ensure that we, as elected leaders, are delivering the essential infrastructure our communities need.

We thank the Commission for its tireless work in assisting the deployment of high-speed broadband networks, and we look forward to more accessible and effective information on broadband performance for our citizens.

Signed,

Dana Kirkham
Mayor
Ammon, Idaho

Martin J. Walsh
Mayor
Boston, Massachusetts

Paul Cutler
Mayor
Centerville, Utah

Deborah Frank Feinen
Mayor
Champaign, Illinois

Andy Berke
Mayor
Chattanooga, Tennessee

Richard J. Kos
Mayor
Chicopee, Massachusetts

Don Ness
Mayor
Duluth, Minnesota

Wade Truxell
Mayor
Fort Collins, Colorado

David Gysberts
Mayor
Hagerstown, Maryland

Mark R. Holland
Mayor
Kansas City, Kansas

Sylvester “Sly” James, Jr.
Mayor
Kansas City, Missouri

Joey Durel
City-Parish President
Lafayette, Louisiana

Peter d’Errico
Select Board Member
Leverett, Massachusetts

Paul Soglin
Mayor
Madison, Wisconsin

Ed Fielding
County Commissioner
Martin County, Florida

Adam Friedrick
County Commissioner
Medina County, Ohio

David Romero
Mayor
Montrose, Colorado

Gary Chesney
Mayor
Morristown, Tennessee

Jill Boudreau
Mayor
Mount Vernon, Washington

Toni Harp
Mayor
New Haven, Connecticut

Gary Fuller
Mayor
Opelika, Alabama

Karen Holman
Mayor
Palo Alto, California

Homer Nicholson
Mayor
Ponca City, Oklahoma

Charlie Hales
Mayor
Portland, Oregon

Rusty Bailey
Mayor
Riverside, California

David A. Bowers
Mayor
Roanoke, Virginia

Paul B. Woodson, Jr.
Mayor
Salisbury, North Carolina

Ron Nirenberg
City Councilman
San Antonio, Texas

Bill King
Mayor
Sandy, Oregon

Kevin McKeown
Mayor
Santa Monica, California

Edward B. Murray
Mayor
Seattle, Washington

Earl Leiken
Mayor
Shaker Heights, Ohio

Steven Leifson
Mayor
Spanish Fork, Utah

Stephanie A. Miner
Mayor
Syracuse, New York

Brian K. Housh
Village Council Member
Yellow Springs, Ohio

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Next Century Cities is a city-to-city initiative founded to support communities and their elected leaders, including mayors and other officials, as they seek to ensure that all have access to fast, affordable, and reliable Internet. As innovative municipalities across the country recognize the importance of leveraging gigabit level Internet to attract new businesses and create jobs, improve health care and education, and connect residents to new opportunities, Next Century Cities will celebrate these successes, demonstrate their value, and help other cities to realize the full power of truly high-speed, affordable, and accessible broadband. For more information, visit www.nextcenturycities.org.

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