Tag Archives: mapping

Telcos improve broadband service data reporting in California, cable not so much

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California has a big, new batch of broadband availability data to chew on. The California Public Utilities Commission has updated its broadband availability map with information current as of 31 December 2015. The data is submitted to the CPUC and the Federal Communications Commission by telcos, cable companies, mobile carriers, and some middle mile and fixed wireless operators.

I’m going to be spending a month or two diving into the new data. But after a couple of hours poking around in it, I’m happy to discover that the two biggest telephone companies in California – AT&T and Frontier Communications – have begun providing detailed information on the type of technology that’s deployed in any given census block that they serve – fiber to the premise, VDSL, ADSL or legacy DSL – along with specific upload and download speeds. That greater level of granularity will make for more accurate analysis of primary broadband infrastructure. It’s possible to make a reasonable judgement call as to what kind of technology is present on the basis of speed reports alone, but there’s enough grey area between, say, fast ADSL and slow VDSL to leave room for uncertainty. No longer, though.

Since the data was submitted before Frontier took over Verizon’s wireline business in California this past April, the information about those systems isn’t as good. We’ll have to wait until next year for that.

The cable industry didn’t improve its data reporting practices. Instead of providing census block by census block data about technology deployment and expected service levels, Charter, Comcast and Cox just report the “up to” speeds they advertise pretty much everywhere in the state. Time Warner is a little more granular, but not much. The reports are submitted by census block, but if they’re to be believed, then their service is uniformly excellent everywhere they offer it. That might be okay as a marketing message, but it doesn’t shine the same light on ground conditions or build consumer trust as the telcos’ data does.

The new version of the map also has updated mobile speed test information that’s collected first hand by the CPUC and subjected to rigorous analysis. At first glance, it doesn’t appear that there’s been a huge improvement in availability or performance – for the most part, mobile service fails to meet the CPUC’s minimum standard of 6 Mbps download and 1.5 Mbps upload speeds.

Take a look for yourself here.

Crowdsourced data included in new version of California broadband map

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Before you can connect the dots, you have to find them.

Data submitted by the public is now integrated into the interactive California broadband availability map, which is published by the California Public Utilities Commission.

The map has been evolving for the past five years, starting out as a set of static graphic files. With the help of funding from the 2009 federal broadband stimulus program (which is nearly gone), it migrated to an interactive online platform developed by Chico State University. It’s gone through a series of upgrades, with the latest one adding two interesting – and possibly controversial – crowdsourced data sets.

One is made up of mobile broadband speeds tests done by anyone who wants to download the commission’s CalSpeed app and run it on an Android phone. The app automatically uploads the results to a central server. The latest version of the map displays that data, regardless of who submits it, so long as the test was run on a phone that can handle the app’s maximum speeds. (There would be little point in displaying results that are limited by test device rather than the service being measured).

The other crowdsourced data set is information submitted, for now, by regional broadband consortia. It’s essentially free form, and the validity of any particular data point is naturally open to debate, but it could become a useful tool for consortia and other community broadband advocates to counter what they consider to be inflated service provider claims with their own ground truth.

The CalSpeed and public feedback data is displayed as a selectable “layer” on the map, as are broadband availability claims submitted by carriers, results from the CPUC’s own mobile testing program and other information, such as broadband adoption rates and FCC tower locations. The map has also been updated with the data submitted by carriers as of the end of last year.