Berkman Broadband Study Highly-Criticized

Incompleteness, innacuracy among complaints from cable and phone broadband network operators

Cable and phone broadband network operators were highly critical of an FCC broadband study in comments filed with the commission this week.

A study on worldwide broadband commissioned by the FCC is incomplete, inaccurate, biased and should essentially be ignored said Verizon of the study, which was prepared by Harvard's Berkman Center. US Telecom, which represents broadband companies, added its two cents, saying that "the selective inclusion and exclusion of key facts and misguided characterization of the regulatory frameworks in different countries appears aimed at reaching a false and foregone conclusion that unbundling policies aid broadband deployment when a clear preponderance of empirical evidence reaches the polar opposite conclusion."

The National Cable & Telecommunications Association was only slightly less harsh than Verizon in its assessment. NCTA, in its comments on the study, said the study did not do what it was supposed to do, and is neither a complete nor an objective survey.

The study, released last month, said the U.S. is a "middle-of-the pack" country when it comes to various measures of first-generation broadband, including price and speeds, likely thanks in part to the FCC's decision not to apply open access conditions to ISPs.

The FCC published a draft online seeking public input on the study, which it commissioned July 14 as part of its data collection for the national broadband plan.

It got plenty of input.

NCTA said the study had drawn the wrong conclusions from its survey of other countries, particularly about open access policies, which were the focus of much of the study. But while Verizon said the study should be given "no weight," NCTA stopped short of dismissing it out of hand, saying it should be given no more authority than any other comments in the record.

Rather than being an expert review of independent literature, as it was advertised, the survey comprised "new studies and new data sources that serve the specific policy and ideological goals" of the author. In fact, it said, the report was "redolent" with bias toward government access mandates over policies that promote investment in competition.

That would make it antithetical to FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski's stated aim of having data, not ideology, drive conclusions.

"The Berkman Report, in short, is an advocacy piece, not the work of dispassionate scholarship that the Commission requested," NCTA said. The association said it recognized that that put the study at odds with the "intellectual rigor" the FCC was applying to its many many inquiries into broadband.  "This Report is not consistent with that approach, it is
not what the Commission ordered, and it should not be granted special significance exceeding that of any comment submitted to the Commission in this proceeding."

Verizon says the paper "largely ignores" the literature that it says demonstrates "that unbundling and government-mandated open access policies have not only failed to improve broadband performance throughout the world, but have frequently had the opposite effect."

It is, in short, "merely an advocacy piece for the previously expressed policy opinions of its principal author," says Verizon.