In an effort to increase the data that the Federal Communications Commission has available as it designs broadband policies, on Thursday the FCC ordered broadband providers to provide the agency with more detailed information. For the past eight years, broadband providers had to provide the FCC with semi-annual information about the number of subscribers that they have in each ZIP code. Now, they will need to provide the number of subscribers in each Census tract, too. In a last-minute change sought by AT&T and the non-profit group Free Press, the FCC decided to also require broadband carriers to separate out the number of business from residential customers. Additionally, under a new form created by the broadband data order, carriers must also say how many of their subscribers within each Census tract fit into each of eight separate speed tiers. The orders released by the FCC on Thursday make no changes to existing rules regarding the confidentiality of this data. However, the broadband data order does initiate a new proceeding whereby the FCC will consider how it should voluntarily collect additional broadband data, including data about customer Internet speeds. The agency says it is doing this so that it may propose “a national broadband availability mapping program.” It says it wants to consider confidentially rules for such additional data.
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