CenturyLink says it needs more guidance to measure broadband service performance

CenturyLink (NYSE: CTL) wants to give its wireline users what they pay for when they purchase a broadband connection, but it has a number of concerns with how the FCC collects information about service providers' broadband performance via their Measuring Broadband America (MBA) program.

The FCC developed the MBA program as a performance study of broadband service in the United States. It was developed out of a recommendation by the National Broadband Plan to improve the availability of information for consumers about their broadband service.

In particular, CenturyLink said in an FCC filing that it wants clarity on how Measurement Lab servers collect information on the quality of its DSL connections.

"CenturyLink explained that it continues to have some concerns about the program, including the reliability of data from Measurement Lab servers and test sampling that understates the quality of DSL providers' service," CenturyLink said in an FCC filing. "CenturyLink noted that the collaborative nature of program -- with sharing of information between Commission, participating ISPs, and others -- has been key to testing integrity and the program's relative success."

During a call with members of the FCC's Wireline Competition Bureau, CenturyLink discussed if the regulatory should provide it and other ISPs additional guidance on speed definitions, latency and packet loss, and the methods of measuring these metrics. It also asked the FCC to rely on industry standards while encouraging "reasonable flexibility in methodologies."

Another key area of concern is measuring the performance of broadband services in particular geographic areas. CenturyLink itself has a broadband network that is spread across 37 states, offering services ranging from "extended reach" DSL to fiber-based 1 Gbps broadband services.

The service provider said that the MBA program revealed that regional reporting could be very costly for service providers since all ISPs (telcos and cable operators) have a number of different networks, use various technologies, and offer various speed tiers.  

"CenturyLink's local broadband network alone covers many tens of thousands of square miles, spread out in 37 states, supporting service ranging from "extended reach" DSL to fiber-based Gig service," CenturyLink said. "Highly granular performance disclosure requirements would be uneconomic for ISPs and not helpful for consumers, by making disclosures unduly complex. Instead, the Commission should allow flexibility and require reasonable network information on what consumers may expect and reference to commonly used speed testing tools."

For more:
- see this FCC filing (PDF)

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