Entries in National Broadband Map (4)


January – April 2011: USF NPRM, AT&T/T-Mobile Merger Dominate Headlines

A Veritable "Spring Awakening" of Blockbuster Agendas

Looking back over the year, there were so many exciting telecom regulatory decisions, actions and mishaps that I just had to do a “2011: Regulatory Year in Review” series, in part to keep it light before the holidays and in part to help predict what might be on the “hot list” next year. 2011 kicked off with the FCC’s controversial late-December approval of the Net Neutrality rules still stinging for many telecom providers, and 2011 is ending on a similar controversial note with the Stop Online Piracy Act debate in Congress (which, ironically, is almost the direct antithesis of Net Neutrality). But in between these groundbreaking Internet policy and legislation bookends, there was definitely no shortage of drama in all areas of telecom regulation.

January 2011: The stage was set for the year-long flurry of merger, joint-venture and consolidation activity with the FCC’s Jan. 18 approval of the massive Comcast-NBC Universal deal. According to the FCC’s Memorandum Opinion and Order, “The proposed transaction would combine, in a single joint venture, the broadcast, cable programming, online content, movie studio, and other businesses of NBCU with some of Comcast’s cable programming and online content businesses.” For those of you who were a little uneasy about a vertical and horizontal (depending on who you talk to) merger of this magnitude, the FCC imposed a variety of conditions including the “voluntary commitment” that Comcast provide broadband for $9.95 to low income consumers—we’ll see this pop up again towards the end of the year. Commissioner Michael Copps dissented, claiming the merger “confers too much power in one company’s hands;” and “The potential for walled gardens, toll booths, content prioritization, access fees to reach end users, and a stake in the heart of independent content production is now very real.”

Also in January, Verizon and MetroPCS jumped the gun on Net Neutrality appeals… but they fired before locking in a target that could actually be appealed. Eager parties had to hold tight for 10 more months before the rules were finally published in the Federal Register.  (The ILEC Advisor: Verizon Appeals FCC’s Net Neutrality Rules, MetroPCS Joins Verizon in Suing FCC Over Net Neutrality Rules)

February 2011: I clearly recall at around this time last year expressing frustration (putting it nicely) that the USF/ICC Reform NPRM was pushed back when Net Neutrality took center stage. Well, we didn’t have to wait very long in 2011 for the 350-plus page NPRM that set in motion an entire year’s worth of anxiety and insomnia for the RLEC industry. Once the NPRM was released, the FCC pressed forward with the reforms at lightning speed (well, for the FCC anyway), and it almost seems surreal that we are now ending the year still trying to make sense of all changes to USF and ICC. Anyway, FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski demanded that USF/ICC reforms conform to four guiding principles: modernized to support broadband networks, fiscal accountability, accountability, and market-driven incentive-based policies. When the NPRM was revealed, Genachowski made sure to emphasis how the current USF/ICC system is fraught with waste, fraud and abuse; and he arguably made RLECs seem like Public Enemy #1. The FCC essentially insisted that the industry develop a consensus proposal in response to the NPRM, but as we will see, that didn’t work out so well… (The ILEC Advisor: Wireless Excess Highlights Needs for Universal Service Reform).  

Not ten days later, we got another zinger- the NTIA’s National Broadband Map was released. RLECs scurried to check the data and make sure speeds and coverage were accurately portrayed in their service areas, only to find… A LOT of mistakes. My initial response to the map was “For $200m, why couldn’t they get it right?” JSICA’s Richelle Elberg wrote that the map was “disappointing, buggy, and the data incomplete;” and “it was a year in the making, it cost an awful lot of money, and it doesn’t seem to be fully baked just yet.” The biggest disappointment was that wireless providers like Verizon seemed to blanket extremely rural areas with 3-6 Mbps broadband, even though I know from experience in at least one such area that this is not an accurate representation—you see, it only takes one household in a census block to be served at that level for the entire block to be reported “served” on the map. Unfortunately, this is only one of the problems with the map, and nearly a year later it hasn’t improved much. (The ILEC Advisor: National Broadband Map Not All it’s Cracked Up to Be).

March 2011: Early in the year, there were a lot of rumors swirling that T-Mobile might be up for grabs—possibly by Sprint, which seemed like a long shot—would Sprint really want to repeat the technology incompatibility mess it had with its Nextel merger (The Deal Advisor: Sprint and T-Mobile in Talks (Again))? The telecom world shuddered on Sunday evening of March 20 when AT&T announced its intentions to abolish T-Mobile from the wireless market for a cool $39b—I was walking home from dinner and getting ready for the NTCA Legislative Conference when I got the news, and it is not an exaggeration to say that I nearly fell over. Anyway, there’s nothing like talks of ol’ Ma Bell reclaiming its monopoly to incite gut reactions from everyone—and I mean everyone. When the FCC comment cycle began, tens of thousands of consumers chimed in with very colorful opinions, one even likening the merger to rape (a comment that has literally haunted me all year…and don’t even get me started on the bizarre “interest groups” like the International Rice Festival who wrote in with questionable favor of the merger). Although many analysts initially assumed that the deal would fly through, JSICA was skeptical from the get-go, warning that the antitrust and FCC reviews would be harsh—and we were right. (The ILEC Advisor: AT&T to Acquire T-Mobile for $39b, Sprint Says it Will Vigorously Oppose AT&T Buy of T-Mobile, What’s Really Behind AT&T’s Acquisition of T-Mobile).

April 2011: USF/ICC Reform started heating up in April, with the first round of comments in response to the NPRM due on April 1 (ICC) and April 18 (USF), and two corresponding public FCC workshops held on April 6 and 27. On the ICC front, rural carriers were fairly unified in insisting that the FCC immediately adopt rules to curb arbitrage and classify VoIP as functionally equivalent to PSTN traffic. One highlight from the April 6 ICC workshop was when the panelist from AT&T (of course), asked sarcastically, “Does Iowa really need 200 small carriers?” The RLEC panelists expressed concern that ICC uncertainty contributes to low valuations for RLECs looking to sell or consolidate, which is contrary to the FCC hopes that the little guys will just consolidate once and for all.

The Rural Associations (NTCA, OPASTCO, WTA, NECA and state associations) released the RLEC Plan for USF/ICC reform, which many expected would be adopted by the FCC in the final rules—maybe not entirely, but at least in some capacity. The RLEC Plan focused on careful, “surgical” transitions for rural carriers to ensure reasonable cost recovery as well as continued broadband deployment, but without back-peddling the tremendous progress that rural carriers have made as a result of the original USF/ICC regime. Hundreds of other rural telecom stakeholders weighed in on the NPRM, many calling for Rate-of-Return stability, keeping the High-Cost Fund (now Connect America Fund) uncapped, and ensuring sufficient and predictable cost recovery. (The ILEC Advisor: Universal Service Reform – Their Two Cents: Nebraska Rural Independent Companies, Universal Service Reform – Their Two Cents: CoBank).

Finally, April also brought a sensible, well-received FCC Order on data roaming that “requires facilities-based providers of commercial mobile data services to offer data roaming arrangements to other such providers on commercially reasonable terms and conditions, subject to certain limitations.”  Naturally, Verizon argued that the FCC overstepped its authority, but overall this Order signaled an important step forward for the FCC’s realization that voice and data are well on the road to becoming one and the same. Smaller rural wireless carriers applauded the decision, arguing that it will help reduce barriers to competition with the large wireless carriers. (The ILEC Advisor: FCC Adopts Order on Automatic Data Roaming).

As the mercury started rising in DC, so did the tension in the USF/ICC Reform proceeding. Stay tuned for more “2011: The Regulatory Year in Review” posts throughout the week!


The National Broadband Map: "Far from Perfect"

Study Depicts Data Limitations of Map, Implications on Policy… Like USF Reform, Perhaps?

Mentioning the National Broadband Map (NBM) is likely to bring up negative reactions in certain telecom circles, but few have gone beyond complaining to actually identifying the map’s specific data limitations and making recommendations for improving the map in future updates. Tony H. Grubesic from Drexel University’s College of Information Science and Technology gave a fascinating presentation at the September 23-25, 2011 Telecom Policy Research Conference in Arlington VA about the inaccuracies of the map; and his paper, “The U.S. National Broadband Map: Data Limitations and Implications,” was released last week.

Since attending the conference, I have been looking forward to reading Grubesic’s paper…and thinking about how some of the inaccuracies he identified will impact rural providers in the USF Order.  Grubesic’s paper does not argue that the NBM is a complete failure; rather he believes that it is a good start and a definite improvement over previous methods of disseminating broadband data (like the Form 477 database). However, “there are a number of issues associated with data integrity, spatial uncertainty and accuracy within the NBM that need to be addressed.”

It is concerning that the FCC plans to use NBM data for Connect America Fund-related decisions, and that the FCC has not really acknowledged that the map depicts an incomplete and overestimated visualization of broadband deployment—it is not out of line to anticipate that this could create problems down the road. Grubesic explains, “Although Steven Rosenberg, the chief data officer with the FCC’s Wireline Competition Bureau touts the NBM as the ‘largest and most detailed map of broadband ever created,’ it is far from perfect.”

Grubesic’s paper covers several interesting—and alarming—aspects of the NBM. His analysis primarily looks at wireline broadband service for Columbus, Ohio and nearby suburb Dublin. First, he discusses the strengths and weaknesses of using Census blocks. He evaluates the differences in the map’s data between large (greater than 2 square miles) and small (less than 2 square miles) Census blocks. Data was collected differently for large and small blocks, although the map makes no specific differentiation between them. As a result, “One outstanding problem…is whether or not the reported presence of a broadband provider in a block is truly indicative of service availability.”

For large Census blocks, “providers collected and submitted address data or road segment data where broadband service was available.” With this methodology, “providers can be overly generous in reporting their broadband coverage, resulting in a drastic overestimation of broadband availability and provider choice for many regions.” Grubesic provides an example of xDSL service, which is distance-limited to about 18,000 feet or less and is rarely deployed to 100 percent of a wirecenter. The following map illustrates a Census block, highlighted in red, which lies outside of any “best case” xDSL service range. However, “the NBM reports 18 address points or street segments within this block receive asymmetric digital subscriber line (ADSL) service from AT&T of Ohio.” Is it magic, or a case of overestimated service? Grubesic concludes that in the Columbus metro area, “empirical analysis suggests that 8,829 people reported to have xDSL service in large blocks likely do not—representing a 46% overestimate.”

For comparison, here is what the NMB shows for xDSL coverage in the Columbus, OH metro area, and wired broadband coverage for Dublin, OH. Unfortunately the blue xDSL blob overshadows the geographic indicators. The map itself is not particularly easy to navigate or even look at, but as Grubesic has pointed out, it is far from perfect!

The next issue discussed in this paper may be more relatable to RLECs- empty census blocks being reported as served, even if there is no logical reason to have a wired broadband connection to the middle of a lake or an interstate on/off ramp. I have definitely picked up on overestimated wireless coverage in remote areas where I know that barely any wireless service exists (or people, for that matter), but apparently this is not just a wireless problem. Just for fun, here is what the map says about a location in rural Iowa, 8 miles from a major highway and 6 miles from the nearest town: Verizon Wireless, 3-6 Mbps. I’ve been at this location, and I can barely make a call without wandering around the yard searching for a signal.  

Grubesic explains why completely empty blocks—with no residential population or businesses—are occasionally listed as served: “a provider may claim to serve a Census block with 0 population because they can provide service within 7 to 10 days.” Even though the reporting methodology allegedly has ways to prevent this problem, the map itself makes no differentiation between empty and populated Census blocks, or between actually served and "could be served in 7 to 10 days" Census blocks. Grubesic again refers to Dublin, OH, where “nearly 46% of the completely empty blocks are reported as having broadband availability…In other words, the NBM is reporting that 45 Census blocks which are completely devoid of residential population, businesses or shopping have broadband services available.” If you apply this logic to the entire US, the map may be reporting thousands of empty blocks with broadband—those are some lucky lakes, cows and highway intersections!

What is really interesting is that despite a clear overestimation of broadband service reported on the NBM, provider participation in the mapping process varied greatly from state to state—in Virginia, only 27% of providers participated and 14 states had participation rates under 60%. It makes me wonder how overestimated the map would be if a 100% participation rate was achieved! Furthermore, the map uses 2000 Census information, and in 2000 there were 8,262,363 Census blocks. Well, in 2010 there were 11,155,486 Census blocks—a 35% increase. Grubesic recommends that the map should be updated to reflect 2010 Census information, and “if the NTIA and FCC are truly committed to maintaining a current and realistic snapshot of broadband availability in the United States, the use of data from 2000 hinders these efforts.”

What do these data inaccuracies mean for rural broadband policy, specifically the Connect America Fund? If the FCC plans to rely on data from the map to help determine who does (and who does not) receive funding, there are sure to be problems. If the map is not updated and corrected, the FCC will essentially be using a faulty premise to make significant funding decisions. It is indeed a scary thought.

What flaws have you discovered in the NBM? How do you think the map can be improved so that the FCC can utilize the data to make informed decisions?

Grubesic’s paper is available to read here.


Tribal Carriers Propose Native Nations Broadband Fund

GRTI Objects to FCC’s USF NPRM, Warns of “Dire Consequences” for Native American Communities

Weighing in on the Universal Service Fund reform debate are a variety of Native American telecommunications providers and associations, who are generally opposed to the FCC’s NPRM and support the creation of a Native Nations Broadband Fund in order to protect and promote broadband infrastructure in these especially challenged areas.  Gila River Telecommunications, Inc. (GRTI; serving the Pima and Maricopa Tribes of the Gila River Indian Community in rural southern Arizona) has filed comments in the proceeding, as have several other Tribal Carriers and the Native Telecom Coalition for Broadband (NTCB). On June 28, 2011, individuals from Arctic Slope Telephone Association Cooperative, Copper Valley Telephone Cooperative, Inc., Interior Telephone Company, Inc., Mukluk Telephone Company, Inc., and Waimana Enterprises, represented by GVNW Consulting, met with members of the FCC to present draft rules for a Tribal/Native Broadband Fund. The cornerstone of a Tribal/Native Broadband Fund is ensuring that Tribal Carriers pass the Times Interest Earned Ratio (TIER) test, which, according to the NTCB “would ensure that government loan covenants, mainly financial performance metrics are met,” so Tribal Carriers could expand and improve broadband infrastructure in Native lands.

GRTI provided a great deal of interesting information about the economic, geographic and demographic challenges that Tribal Carriers face as they attempt to deploy broadband in Native American communities. GRTI acquired its local exchange network from US West in 1988 and it is now owned and operated by the Gila River Indian Community, with 60% of employees and the entire board comprised of Native American individuals. GRTI provides voice and broadband to an area of around 582 square miles with a population of 12,000 Native Americans. GRTI notes that, “this low population density leaves little, if any, margin for profit for GRTI after recovery of high costs of build-out operations.”

I was very impressed that GRTI has managed to increase telephone penetration from 10% in 1988 to 80% today, but I was discouraged to learn that GRTI’s broadband penetration rate is only 22%, for 1.5 Mbps/256 kbps DSL—apparently, this is a high take rate for a Tribal community. Furthermore, GRTI notes that 50% of the Gila River community is below the poverty line, and over 50% are unemployed. Adding to these challenges is the cost of broadband for consumers, which GRTI can provide at no lower than $52.90 per month due to the extraordinary costs for interstate access and middle mile transport. Add extremely low digital literacy to this list of challenges, and “the resulting low usage rate creates an economic hurdle for capital investment in enhancements to and expansion of broadband services on Tribal lands.”

The NTCB also provided some interesting commentary about the unique challenges that Tribal Carriers face. The NTCB showed concern about the FCC’s USF NPRM because of the possibility of the reforms increasing the rural-rural divide, where Tribal Lands would be the real losers especially if USF support is primarily distributed to large carriers. The NTCB explained, “Communications giants are going to serve rural America—this is the vision presented by the National Broadband Plan. However, these giants lack local presence, lack local leadership, lack local participation, and lack local accountability; all reasons why ‘scope and scale’ have failed in much of rural America today.” The NTCB goes on to explain how large ILECs have historically showed little interest in serving Tribal Lands, and “entities that might be deemed to have ‘sufficient’ resources to get the job done are not interested in building-out to these remote areas, nor do they have an appreciation for the local needs and level of commitment that is needed to fully serve Native communities (the tribe’s cultural, spiritual, economic, personal and public safety, and other unique factors to these remote areas are an integral aspect not only of network planning, but also the continuing provision of appropriate/necessary communications services and customer interface).”

I found this argument to be very thought-provoking, and reminiscent of my opinions about large investor-owned telecom carriers serving rural areas in general. However, the special characteristics of Tribal Lands are something that, in my opinion, large non-local companies are not equipped for or willing to deal with for such low return on investment. I believe this emphasizes the importance of providing support for Tribal-owned and operated broadband providers, who will likely make decisions with the best intentions for their communities.

GRTI argues that a Native Nations Broadband Fund “would encourage a meaningful incentive for the deployment of [broadband] infrastructure,” and “targeted support not only advances the Commission’s relationship with, and responsibility to, Tribes but also furthers the Commission’s policy of promoting Tribal self-sufficiency and economic development.” Absent a special Tribal USF mechanism, GRTI is deeply concerned about its ability to continue to provide voice and broadband to the Gila River Community. GRTI estimates that the FCC’s NPRM proposals would decrease the company’s revenue by $2-3m over the next four years, and result in “dire consequences for the community.”

Furthermore, GRTI provided some interesting commentary about the trouble with using the National Broadband Map to target support to unserved areas. They argue that the map does not accurately depict Tribal Carrier’s service areas, as many Tribal Carriers did not provide information for the map. Apparently, a community center in the Gila River area is listed on the map as having 3-6 Mbps service, when it actually has a 1 Gbps fiber connection—the agency who provided the input never even confirmed it with GRTI: “in fact, GRTI had no idea how [the AZ Government Information Technology Agency] obtained this incorrect data.” GRTI was offered no resources or assistance to provide input for the National Broadband Map, and the result was glaringly inaccurate data.

In their June 28 ex parte meeting, the Tribal Carriers represented by GVNW Consulting prepared draft rules for a Tribal Broadband Fund (TBF). To receive support, eligible telecommunications carriers (ETCs) would have to undergo a certification process and submit quarterly financial data in order to receive Tribal USF support. According to the draft proposal, “The TBF support amount will provide participating eligible ETCs with ‘net gap’ support sufficient to recover any revenue shortfall to the provision of regulated communications services to American Indians, Alaska Natives and Native Hawaiians.” The support would then enable Tribal Carriers to pass the TIER test which would qualify these companies for RUS loans.

I find this proposal to be reasonable and necessary—it is clear that Tribal Carriers face extremely extenuating circumstances in broadband deployment and adoption. I would be interested in seeing proposals for increasing broadband adoption in Tribal Areas too, as the situation depicted by GRTI indicates that broadband deployment is only part of the challenge. I believe GRTI’s challenge is that their Tribal community simply cannot afford over $50 per month for DSL, therefore I hope that a Tribal Broadband Fund would help alleviate some of the costs associated with deploying broadband infrastructure in Tribal Lands—as a result, the Tribal Carriers could lower their prices significantly and hopefully increase the adoption rates, digital literacy, and overall economic well being of their communities. Will the FCC recognize the importance of establishing a separate Tribal Broadband Fund, or will Tribal communities fall victim to the growing rural-rural divide if Tribal Carriers do not receive any special attention?

GRTI’s comments are available here, and the NTBC’s comments are available here. The draft rules for the Tribal Broadband Fund are available here, and the ex parte filing by GVNW Consulting is available here.


National Broadband Map Not All It's Cracked Up to Be

Shopping for Broadband Reveals Cable Still Out Front

It’s been a week since the National Broadband Map was unveiled, and as fate would have it, I’ll be moving into a new home soon, so this seemed like a perfect opportunity to test the tool and select my broadband service provider for the new place at the same time.

Sadly, I have found the tool to be disappointing, buggy, and the data incomplete.  Sure, the site asks you to let them know if you don’t see your provider, but in my southern New Mexico community it seems a fair bet that cable provider Comcast (Nasdaq:CMCSA) is probably the largest broadband service provider around—and in repeated tests Comcast didn’t even appear in the list.  

Not only is this an obvious omission, it’s also disconcerting because NTIA awarded nearly $150m to all the states for gathering this information every six months.  That’s $3m per state—I’d like to bid on the contract for NM, please!  Here's what the map showed me when I plugged in my zip code:

As for what was revealed, the map is really nothing more than a starting point.  But it was interesting to compare and contrast the current options as a consumer rather than an analyst…our ILEC readers, however, may be sad (unsurprised?) to find I’m going with Comcast as my broadband service provider. Here are the reasons why:

The National Broadband Map listed Qwest (NYSE:Q) and Covad as the only two wired options, but a quick glance at the yellow pages confirmed that Comcast too serves this area.  Covad targets business users and its cheapest service is $80/month for DSL—not an option for Richelle.  

Qwest has a special for the first six months where you can get any speed DSL service for $15/month and you don’t have to be a landline customer…sounded interesting, but the devil’s in the details—or rather the speeds.  You will pay $100 up front for a modem, or lease it from Qwest for $8/month.  After six months, the monthly rates without a “qualifying home phone plan” range from $40/month up to $70/month, based on the data speeds.  As a video cord-cutter who occasionally streams Netflix movies, I want a pretty high speed, probably 12 Mbps or 20 Mbps for download.  These will run $50 or $60/ month after the first six months, and the upload speeds are just 896 Kbps.  All in, I figure I’ll spend $41 or $42 /month with Qwest for the first year, more if I decide to lease rather than buy the modem, but the second year we're talking $60/month. 

Next I looked at Comcast.  Comcast’s current promotion is $30/month for the first six months for its Performance package, with a download speed of 15 Mbps and upload speeds of 3 Mbps.  The plan is $45/month for months 7 – 12, and could range as high as $50-$60/month thereafter.  Here you can provide your own modem (which run about $50 at Staples, with WiFi), or lease theirs for $7/month.  I figure I would buy my own.  So the pricing looks slightly lower than Qwest's DSL service--not a lot less, but its speeds are also higher.

The national broadband map lists four wireless providers in my area, and Verizon’s (NYSE:VZ) is actually listed as the fastest provider included, with speeds of 3 Mbps to 6 Mbps (of course, if Comcast were actually in the list, it would be the fastest!).  When I plug in my zip code on Verizon’s web site I’m given the option of acquiring a 4G USB modem for $100 with a 2-year contract or for $170 with a one-year contract.  The data plans are $50/month for 5 Gigabytes of monthly use and $80/month for 10 Gigabytes.  But how much is a gigabyte of use?  Before I pondered that question, however, I read the product reviews for the two modems presently available and at least half of the reviewers were unhappy with the product; many said it didn’t hold the 4G signal—reverting back to 3G instead—and it lost its connection often.  I’m not in a high population area so I have my doubts as to whether I would actually get a 4G signal here.

AT&T Wireless’ (NYSE:T) web site had a very cool data usage estimator that helped me answer the gigabyte question.  Based on 140 emails/day with no attachment, 100 emails/day with a photo or other attachment, 200 web page views per day, and 30 minutes of streaming video per day, my estimated monthly usage according to AT&T Wireless would be 3.74 Gigs.  But the calculator wouldn’t even let me figure on streaming more than 50 minutes of video per day, which tells me their service isn’t really an option for a cord cutter. 

The other odd thing about AT&T’s site is that it promotes a DataConnect 4G service as well as DataConnect 3G.  We all know AT&T doesn’t actually have a 4G service at this time, but both it and T-Mobile have decided to call their HSPA+ system 4G.  Speeds, however, are closer to those of DSL, well below the 5 – 12 Mbps that LTE systems are delivering.  Nevertheless, AT&T’s DataConnect 4G service is just $50/month for 5 gigabytes, whereas its DataConnect 3G service is offered at $60/month.  For what is essentially a 3G WiFi hotspot, however, AT&T did have very good reviews.  In fact, it didn’t have any bad reviews, a fact which gave us pause…

The last two wireless “broadband” providers in my area are Sprint (NYSE:S) and Leap (Nasdaq:LEAP), which markets its service under the Cricket brand name.  Sprint (Clearwire) doesn’t have 4G service in my market yet, but it offers a 3G/4G USB modem for free with a 2 year contract, which is $60/month and limited to 5 gigs of data per month on the 3G network. Data usage is, however, unlimited in markets where 4G is available.  Speeds here are reportedly less than 800 Kbps according to the national broadband map. 

Cricket actually had a better deal for 3G data:  the modem is free after a mail-in rebate, you don’t have to sign a contract and the plan is $60 per month for 7.5 gigabytes of data.  Cricket says its speeds are up to 1.4 Mbps, though the national broadband map has it at the under 800 Kbps rate.

So, while I was initially hopeful there might be a wireless option that would work for me, the speeds simply aren’t there yet (not here anyway).  And compared side by side, for the speeds I find the cable broadband option more palatable.  Of course, if Qwest didn’t insist on a home phone line for its cheaper pricing, I might have come to a different conclusion…(something for you ILEC managers to think about).

As for the National Broadband Map, it was a year in the making, it cost an awful lot of money, and it doesn’t seem to be fully baked just yet.  Ah, government at its finest…