For Immediate Release
Wednesday, June 17, 2015
Contact: Deb Socia
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.
Martin J. Walsh
Deborah Frank Feinen
Richard J. Kos
Fort Collins, Colorado
Mark R. Holland
Kansas City, Kansas
Sylvester “Sly” James, Jr.
Kansas City, Missouri
Select Board Member
Martin County, Florida
Medina County, Ohio
Mount Vernon, Washington
New Haven, Connecticut
Palo Alto, California
Ponca City, Oklahoma
David A. Bowers
Paul B. Woodson, Jr.
Salisbury, North Carolina
San Antonio, Texas
Santa Monica, California
Edward B. Murray
Shaker Heights, Ohio
Spanish Fork, Utah
Stephanie A. Miner
Syracuse, New York
Brian K. Housh
Village Council Member
Yellow Springs, Ohio
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.