The broadband policy debate in America has traditionally been a fight between:
- Proponents of a free and unfettered market, who feel that government interference only hampers competition, and
- Those who say the big telecom companies have effectively established a system of regional duopolies, in which successors to the Baby Bells take the low end with DSL, while cable providers take the high end.
The FCC’s broadband status reports have become something of a joke. Based on poor data collection and written as success stories rather than sober assessments, they have only added to confusion about the true state of broadband deployment in America. Enter BroadbandCensus.com. This new site aims to help individual consumers find broadband options available in their zip code and compile a broad, deep database of information about the real-world choices available to consumers. The screenshot above reveals that BroadbandCensus.com has great possibilities, but can only attain its goals if people across the country participate. The fact that the U.S. government thinks there are 12 broadband providers in my zip code is startling, to say the least. I’d be even more startled if the number were true. So far, I’m the only person who has reported in my zip code. The BroadbandCensus.com database will only be as good as the data placed into it (GIGO, as they say). My zip code is 95060, but I live in Santa Cruz, not Scotts Valley. I’m assuming this is just an errant database glitch, but data accuracy is critically important in an endeavor like this. For now, I’m willing to give them the benefit of the doubt, because the site is well put together, and because the cause is worthy. So hop over to BroadbandCensus.com and enter your zip code and tell the site which provider you use. Spread the word. It takes less than a minute. If we can collectively create a better information resource for the broadband debate, perhaps we’ll get better policies from Sacramento and Washington, D.C.