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NTIA Clarifies Broadband Data Collection Rules in Response to Concerns of ACA, Others

The U.S. Commerce Department's National Telecommunications and Information Administration has agreed to make clarifications and discrete modifications to the rules they set forth for the collection of data and information from cable operators and telecommunication carriers as part of an Internet mapping project designed to spur the Obama Administration's goal of delivering high-speed broadband to every home and business across the country.

"ACA is committed to helping the NTIA with mapping the nation's broadband availability, and ACA believes the agency's changes will improve and expedite that effort," ACA President and CEO Matthew M. Polka said in an Aug. 7 statement moments after NTIA's announcement.

NTIA's decision to modify the rules came in response to concerns raised in a letter signed by ACA, other trade organizations and companies that the government had not sufficiently established safeguards to protect the commercially sensitive information that was being sought. Objections were also raised about the significant burden and high likelihood of error in providing broadband data at the street address level. Under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, Congress set aside up to $350 million for the Internet mapping project.

In the end, NTIA decided that all entities that receive funding from the NTIA to collect state-level broadband data and develop a state-level broadband map must enter into a nondisclosure agreement with all broadband service providers. The NTIA also decided not disclose any confidential information received through this program to the FCC or other Federal agencies without the agency's agreement to treat the data as confidential.

In another change, the NTIA also agreed to allow broadband providers to submit availability data via census blocks, a broader measure than compared to the street address level originally sought. Census blocks are the smallest geographic unit used by the U.S. Census Bureau and typically include about 15 homes in a city street. Census blocks tend to be much larger geographically in rural areas.

NTIA also clarified that broadband access providers will not need to disclose the location and strength of their central network connections to subscriber homes and businesses. NTIA will also not request that carriers supply revenue data per each end-user.

The new ruling also makes clear that cable broadband providers don't have to report advertised transmission speeds on an address level, but can supply the information across a local franchise area.

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