July 20, 2023

Unleashing the Power of Data in Crafting Effective Broadband Policy

By Brian Hurley, Chief Regulatory Counsel, ACA Connects

Successful policymaking must be driven by data and analytics. As we know from experience, policymakers that do not ground their decisions in the best available data have no reliable way to assess alternatives or predict the outcomes of different approaches. They are thus unlikely to achieve their goals and may even do more harm than good.

The necessary link between good data and good policy has driven the many studies and filings ACA Connects has produced over the past decade, often in tandem with the business consulting firm Cartesian.  Our 2021 study “Addressing Gaps in Broadband Infrastructure Availability and Service Adoption” was used by Congress in drafting the ground-breaking broadband provisions in the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.  More recently, our “Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment (BEAD) Program Framework” has been relied upon by States to give them a head start in developing their Initial Proposals for the BEAD program.  Earlier this week, we published Version 3.1 of the Framework, based on the funding allocations NTIA released in June, to give States even more precise information about how to maximize fiber connectivity while ensuring all unserved and underserved locations are connected. 

ACA Connects also has dug into the data to demonstrate that broadband competition is thriving and that, as a result, consumers are able to access higher speed, more reliable services for substantially lower “per-meg” prices.  This good news about broadband in America should come as no real surprise, given the enormous investments made by providers over the past two decades. The FCC and other policymakers have played an important role in this success by maintaining—for the most part—a balanced regulatory approach.  

In addition, data has enabled the private sector and government to work collaboratively in addressing the broadband adoption problem.  We are proud that more than 300 ACA Connects Members participate in the Affordable Connectivity Program, offering free or low-cost broadband services to help low-income households in their communities stay connected.  

In sum, creating good policy that achieves its objectives starts with collecting and analyzing the data.  ACA Connects will continue to live by that approach.  Federal and State agencies should do the same, including by conducting rigorous cost-benefit analyses before adopting any regulations.