Ten organizations including NDIA have called on the U.S. Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) to take the lead in creating a new and improved system for gathering national data on broadband access and adoption, including consumer prices.

The ten groups, led by the New America Foundation’s Open Technology Institute, submitted a joint response on Monday to NTIA’s formal request for comments on “Improving the Quality and Accuracy of Broadband Availability Data”.  The agency asked for public input on the narrow question of how best to use $7.5 million it has received from Congress to augment Federal broadband access data with data from other “third party” sources.

The organizations’ response challenges NTIA to look beyond those limits:

“Robust data is a vital component of informed policymaking and efforts to close America’s persistent digital divide. The best way to ensure access to such data is to establish a program that improves upon prior attempts to gather broadband access and adoption data. Commenters support efforts to aggregate datasets and then identify and fix gaps that exist in those datasets, but the ultimate goal of NTIA’s work in this area should be for the agency to create, or lead the creation of, a comprehensive data collection scheme that is timely, accurate, granular, and sustainable… The current open sources of federal data, namely the FCC’s Form 477 data, are unreliable and flawed. Importantly, a holistic understanding of the digital divide requires more in-depth work that the recent Congressional appropriation cannot adequately fund. Specifically, any new data collection regime must measure barriers to broadband adoption — particularly the cost, a key metric for which very little 1data exists. Any new regime should combine this data with measurement of broadband performance… NTIA could use the $7.5 million allocation to aggregate and improve upon third party datasets, but it should not stop there. NTIA should continue seeking funding from Congress for a better broadband data collection system.”

Read or download the full comments here.

In addition to New America and NDIA, the organizations joining in Monday’s filing included Access Humboldt, the Benton Foundation, the Center for Rural Strategies, the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, the National Hispanic Media Coalition, Next Century Cities, Public Knowledge, and X-Lab.

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