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Broadband Together: Crowdsourcing the Data Internet Service Providers Refuse To Share

July 22, 2021 , , , ,

Share your internet bill here and learn more about the Let’s Broadband Together initiative below. 

Many of us use broadband every day, whether it’s to connect to loved ones, access healthcare, work or study. Just today, I’m using it to write this blog post, text my sisters, and log in to a virtual doctor’s appointment. It’s easy to take broadband access for granted, but not all Americans have the same reliable access that I do. In fact, more than 42 million don’t have access at all. And even when access is available, because of the high price charged by broadband providers, many American families simply can not afford it. The cost of broadband is a barrier frequently cited by consumers as the reason they do not have broadband when it is available. (You can tell Congress to fix this here.)

 Broadband providers, which often operate as monopolies or duopolies in a given service area, aren’t required to report the prices they charge or the speeds customers actually receive. As a result, providers can charge exorbitant prices and under-deliver on their promise of high-speed service. Without competitors, consumers have no alternatives if they want to stay connected. On top of that, no federal agency currently collects price and actual speed data. That leaves the government, consumers, and advocates in the dark about the state of broadband affordability in America. It prevents us from identifying how prices vary from neighborhood to neighborhood or from state to state and makes it even more difficult to ensure policies are adopted that provide opportunities for all to have access to affordable, reliable broadband.

Despite this obstacle, we’ve still been able to establish alarming trends in broadband access and affordability. Sky-high broadband prices and limited access aren’t just features of rural areas, but can be found in major cities, as well. Gaps in broadband access follow a depressingly familiar pattern: Wealthier, whiter neighborhoods are offered robust, reliable internet, while other communities, from Tribal lands to black and brown neighborhoods, are once again left behind.

Broadband access isn’t a luxury, and it isn’t even a “nice to have.” It’s an essential service, a public utility that everyone in every neighborhood needs in order to thrive in the modern world. But even if every American did have broadband access, that wouldn’t be enough. We need broadband to be fast, reliable, and affordable. Therefore, we need better data to help craft policies to address these specific problems in the market.

Public Knowledge isn’t satisfied just waiting for broadband providers to voluntarily offer this information to the public. Nor are we waiting for the government to step in to close the data gap. That’s why we’ve joined the Broadband Together coalition to launch a national broadband affordability initiative. We’re asking consumers like you to share information about the quality and cost of their internet connection. We need a lot of people – 30,000 people – to take just a few minutes to share their internet bill and answer a few questions.

The information we hope to gain from this project will be powerful. It will help us better understand if people are paying more for the same service in different areas and if we’re getting the speeds that internet service providers insist they provide. It will provide data to unmask how competition (or more importantly, a lack thereof) impacts the price and quality of broadband. And it will help us refine policies to ensure that we connect every community to this essential service.

We need your help. Please spend just a few minutes filling out this survey to help determine if you are actually getting what you pay for when it comes to high-speed internet service. Together, we can find the truth of what the state of broadband service in the country really is.


About Alyssa Martindale

Alyssa is a Communications Intern at Public Knowledge. She has previously interned at the State Policy and Government Relations team at Deloitte and as a Conference Fellow at J Street. She is a senior at the George Washington University, where she studies International Affairs and Security Policy. When she isn't watching Senate Commerce Committee hearings, Alyssa is most likely cooking or baking in her tiny kitchen.