back to article US govt confirms FCC's broadband speeds and feeds stats are garbage

A report by the US Government Accountability Office (GAO) has confirmed what others have reported for years: that official data on internet access across the country greatly over estimates availability and competition. The report [PDF] is focused specifically on tribal lands – small semi-autonomous areas of the United States …

  1. ivan5

    Interesting that here in very rural France I have a choice of three providers for ADSL, speeds are the same - uses the same cable from the exchange - but prices are different ( I think the price difference depends on the amount of hand holding and TV you want). I would expect that the US should be able to do the same without problems, after all most of the cabling in the US is mounted on poles while here ours is all underground even though the exchange is 6.3km away as the cable runs.

    1. Mark 85

      They could, theoretically, but with all the non-compete agreements, it's not going to happen. Any little guys get pretty much run over. Go look at what happened when Google said they were coming in. Prices dropped where they are but the places they didn't get around to have raised their prices back and in some cases, more.

      1. joemostowey

        Google, Amazon, Facebook all have a vested interest in internet penetration across the country.So do colleges, schools and online retailers.

        Yet you rarely, if ever, see these entities pushing for greater access for their customers and students.

        They have great power, yet seem short-sighted. Online retailers and Social media providers would certainly benefit from having access to more customers.

        Colleges and schools do not deny that students without access to the internet are missing out on educational opportunities and failing to learn skills required in today's businesses and government offices.

        Yet with all their power, where is the pressure on the FCC to push for greater access for the disenfranchised? Really, it's as if they were part of the problem instead of part of the solution. Or maybe they just don't care about their students, or access to more customers and revenue.

        Or maybe, like most businesses of a certain size their stock portfolios contain large numbers of ISP

        and telecom stocks and they love the way that monopolies have great investment returns and competition would lower those returns by a few pennies. Government officials have certainly grown financially fat on these stocks.

        Maybe it's the old "honor among thieves" principle

        1. Charles 9

          "Or maybe they just don't care about their students, or access to more customers and revenue."

          Or may be they realize that students may not be the best customers in terms of access to money. I mean, isn't it one of the great cliches that your average college student is getting by on ramen packets? What the e-tailers want is access to the workforce: those who already have jobs. That's where all the accessible money is to be found.

    2. Charles 9

      The main problem is that the poles themselves are usually privately-owned, and due to anti-socialist sentiments the government usually can't intervene except in extreme circumstances, and there's usually cartel behavior going on behind the scenes to keep anyone but the chosen few from getting access to those poles.

  2. eldakka

    "Overstatements of access limit FCC’s and tribal stakeholders’ abilities to target broadband funding to such areas. For example, some tribal officials stated that inaccurate data have affected their ability to plan their own broadband networks and obtain funding to address broadband gaps on their lands."

    So, working as intended then?

    1. John Smith 19 Gold badge

      "So, working as intended then?"

      OH yes, Sweet Pai is earning his money*

      *Not his official government salary of course.

  3. chuckufarley Silver badge

    "...been given a useful tool..."

    If the US government is good at anything these days, it's generating tools. In fact, tools are the common denominator of the current State of the Union. Some of them can even be described as "Power Tools" and some others as "Multi Tools." A tool can only be "useful" if there is a skilled operator with the will and means to execute it's intended function. After all, a skilled showman can juggle a chainsaw, a hammer, and an axe while never using any of them for their intended purposes.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Form 477

    Is a collosal waste of anyone who is working on it time and energy. I filled it out 10 years and I mostly just copied and pasted figures from last year and changed sub count and made educational guesses where I had no hard data from the billing system.

  5. Drew Scriver

    Solution: crowd-source the coverage map

    Since crowd-sourcing is all the rage these days, how hard would it be for the FCC to set up a website where consumers can plug in their address and indicate which companies serve their location and at what speeds?

    Now THAT would generate a revealing coverage map...

    Since Pai is unlikely to spend any of my tax payments on such a mapping site, maybe I'll create one myself...

    1. chuckufarley Silver badge

      Re: Solution: #crowd-source-blockchain-cloud-Ops the coverage map

      You will need more buzzwords if you want people to take it seriously.

  6. EnviableOne

    the problem with comparing US to EU

    most EU nations had a former publicy owned telephone company that ran cables to everywhere and has at least one with a Global service obligation. Unfortunatley for them tother side of the pond, this is not the case, and it all comes down to economics, and based on most models, 80% coverage of the US is about economical, the other 20% is going to be costly.

    in the Uk this comes down to 95% (due to the size and landsacpe) so the government are (barley) funding the last 5% along with co-ops and collectives, who are paying the national networks for connectivity on a group rate.

    1. joemostowey

      Re: the problem with comparing US to EU

      That's the same garbage that has been touted by the ISPs for years.

      Reality is this: ISPs can and do build MONOPOLIES and use any tool to maintain them-especially propaganda.

      The FCC actively supports them and despite denials from the FCC, their regulations and rules favor the most criminal behavior by the telecoms and internet providers,such as outright lying to the regulators by the telecoms and ISPs, tying the regulators hands by having no ability to enforce regulations,changing the regulations to favor ISPs, tying the burden of proof to such high standards that, like trump,they could kill someone in front of the FCC head,and still be revered as "good Capitalists".

      The county of King and Queen, in the state of Virginia is an excellent example. Cox communication came in 30 years ago,snapped up the high density populated area, and never expanded beyond that segment of the county. a county 15 miles wide and 75 miles long.

      When the county government wanted to provide their own internet, government funding from the FCC was denied because the county is only 50 miles from Richmond, the state capitol. So,less than 5% of the county has wired internet and the rest can get it wireless from Verizon or Sprint,or Tmobile at ridiculously high prices ($10.00 per Gigabyte) or Satellite with equally burdensome terms of service - or do with out. The county government made a deal with a provider to supply wireless internet at a speed of 3 mps to parts of the county, but less than 2 miles from the support towers and the service is unavailable or so spotty and slow as to be comparable with dial up or even slower.

      $g phone service at the same distance from the towers is at one or possibly (with perfect weather and atmosphere conditions )as strong as two bars - but never consistently that high.

      Letters to Senators, Governors and state and local representatives all indicate the FCC regulations have tied their hands and the FCC has indicated a healthy robust internet. The government REQUIRES use of the internet to do business with them, then fails to provide that access.

      folks in these parts believe the elected officials are in bed with the corporations.

      And there is, as proven by their actions or inaction, little reason to believe otherwise.

  7. DerekCurrie


    1) Put someone who is not a proven liar into the role of FCC Director. Ousting proven liar Ajit Pai is a start.

  8. Drew Scriver

    More loopholes?

    Figured I'd look up my address at to see how the ISPs are reporting on my area.

    While it's accurate that only Verizon offers service (ADSL), there are two major misrepresentations:

    1) Speed for my address is listed as 15 Mbps. However, VZ has capped my account at 3 Mbps. Since my house is the closest one in the neighborhood to the CO I actually have the fastest connection in the area...

    2) Verizon no longer offers new contracts/connections in our area. This reveals another loophole in the FCC's survey, as they ask about current service - not if the ISP is offering service to new residents.

    Time for another chat with my congressman...

    In the meantime, I'll give VZ a call to ask how I can get that 15 Mbps connection they reported to the FCC...

  9. Twilight

    Mine is accurate as to who but seems iffy on the bandwidth. I live in an urban area (inner suburb of large metro) and my choices are:

    Comcast (they deserve all the hate) listed as 250/25 Mbps - maybe if you live right next to the CO

    CenturyLink (if anything, worse than Comcast) listed as 20/1 Mbps (about right)

    Nextera (wireless) listed as 6/6 Mbps (no idea - too slow to check out)

    and multiple satellite providers which might work for streaming but not work or gaming

    So, in reality, we have a choice of 1 (Comcast). We're in the process of dumping Comcast phone and cable tv but really have no choice on internet.

    The most ironic part is they just ran two fiber bundles through our front yard for the high school (way more than 1 school needs) but we can't pay to have fiber run to our house.

  10. Milton

    A binary world

    I'm beginning to think that the underlying problem with this increasingly dysfunctional, dangerous, inhumane world is not right-wing politics, not the internet, not political tribalism, not social media, not anonymity, not sewerpress tabloids, not even lack of education ... although all of those things have toxic effects, they are symptoms of a deeper malaise, one that is embedding itself deeply in our culture and behaviour.

    The problem is lies.

    We think the 'real war' is between right-wing culture (greed, callousness, selfishness, massive incompetence: its worst defect a kind of unprincipled ruthlessness) and the left (compassion, decency, humanity, frequent incompetence: its major defect a lack of principled ruthlessness); or simply between Haves and Have-Nots; the stronger vs the weaker ...

    But when you scrape away all the political verbiage and excuses and justifications and sophistries, you get to the core, fundamental conflict: Truth vs Lies.

    This story about FCC statistics is just one more data point about deceit, misleading information, political spin, propaganda and all the other shit that pollutes our brains.

    The world is becoming a binary place where a literate and aware, rational adult—a member of the 'evidence-based community'—often knows what to expect from someone simply by knowing what they do for a living. For a brief subset—

    Scientist. Teacher. Doctor. Soldier. Researcher. Engineer. Their job is honesty. Accuracy. Facts. Objective realities. Truth.

    Politician. Marketer. Political appointee. Advertiser. Salesperson. Their jobs is deceit. Spin. Diversion. Excuses. Propaganda. Misinformation. Lies.

    The problem with the second group is that they actually think this is ok. They really are that mediocre, as human beings.

    The problem with the first group is we are not stomping all over the second group's f**king dishonesty and holding them accountable. We tolerate this mediocrity. We're letting the lunatics and the children take over.

    Perhaps we should wake up and stop being tolerant—before it's too late, before we allow our kids to drown in a swamp of pollution on an over-heated planet?

    Failing which, I say again: humans are unfit to govern themselves.

    1. Charles 9

      Re: A binary world

      "Failing which, I say again: humans are unfit to govern themselves."

      IOW, where are the alien dei ex machina to save us before we ruin the planet beyond recovery, because we sure as hell can't see it for ourselves? I mean, if people ENJOY lies, then perhaps we're beyond deluded: resigned to fate and simply trying to distract ourselves before the inevitable happens as the have-everythings hope they get the terminator drones in place before the have-nothings rise up en masse.

  11. John Smith 19 Gold badge

    So, in reality the US broadband picture could be as bad as well, the UK?

    Because it sounds like that "Broadband map" the FCC draws up is just so much BS.

    But it might have one use.

    Comparing the ISP's reported speeds and availability with the real ones.

    If they only have to sell a package to 1 in 30 or 1 in 500 properties in a "Census block" then their real coverage could be as low as 0.2-3.0% of a block.

    Leaving the rest in the block with possibly f**k all coverage.

  12. AbeSapian

    Telecommunications Ghetto

    If you live in rural America you are forgotten. Only the lowest level of service from AT&T that can still be called DSL (speeds less than 1M) is available to me. My alleged other provider is Charter Communications, a cable company that can't be bothered to string a wire to my house. And a complaint to the FCC yielded a raft of phone calls and excuses and not results. And that was before Ajit (pronounced idiot) Pai made things worse.

  13. Marty McFly Silver badge

    The gub'mint

    A government agency fakes its reports? Naw, say it isn't so! That has never happened before.

  14. Kevin McMurtrie Silver badge

    Useless even if it was accurate

    There's no grade level for service in the maps. Some ISPs use combinations of NAT, PPPoE, VPN tunnels, obstructive firewalls, and outdated equipment. That means no incoming connections, no peer-to-peer, unreliable UDP, unreliable VPN, no IPv6, and dwindling connectivity in the future. Think of old independent networks reselling old abandoned AT&T Uverse bandwidth.

POST COMMENT House rules

Not a member of The Register? Create a new account here.

  • Enter your comment

  • Add an icon

Anonymous cowards cannot choose their icon

Other stories you might like