The Sorry State of Broadband Competition – And How to Deal

In my 12 steps to move a community broadband project to successful completion, I put heavy emphasis on the needs analysis process. You can’t create the network that’s best suited to meet constituents’ needs if you don’t do this particular task well. But part of the assessment involves understanding the provider marketplace. “It sucks!” may seem 100% accurate, but it’s not a particularly complete analysis.

Assessing what communities need requires understanding what options they already have – or don’t have – to meet those needs. At both the national and the local level, getting a detailed picture of existing service providers and their market share, coverage areas, actual speeds and so forth has been difficult, if not impossible. Yet we must soldier on as best we can.

Whether you create a public-private partnership, convince a telecom company or service provider to offer better broadband or build a public network, this is a business venture. Business ventures require market intelligence.

Last week, data services company ID Insight and I released a high-level report on broadband competition in the U.S. It uses critical, but not private, data pulled from Internet transactions to determine service providers’ market share for each of the 50 states and Washington, D.C. Then we did some fancy statistical footwork to create a standard by which we can measure and rank the level of competitiveness between states.

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