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Congress passes bill aimed at measuring Internet access

October 01, 2008|From the Associated Press

WASHINGTON — Congress has passed legislation that will require the government to keep closer tabs on who has access to the Internet and who does not.

Supporters hope the Broadband Data Improvement Act will help policymakers better identify areas of the country that are falling behind when it comes to high-speed Internet access.

The bill passed both houses of Congress, with the Senate approving a final version Tuesday on a voice vote.

Sponsor Sen. Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii) said the federal government had a responsibility to make sure Americans had access to the Internet, but "we cannot manage what we do not measure."

The Federal Communications Commission collects data on broadband use, but its methods have been criticized as outdated. The commission voted in March to greatly improve its data collection. Broadband providers will be required to provide subscription numbers by census tract, speed and type of technology.

The legislation passed by Congress goes further. It requires the FCC to conduct consumer surveys of broadband use in urban, suburban and rural areas, as well as large and small business markets. Survey questions will include the cost of access and data transmission speeds.

The legislation requires the FCC to compile a list of places that lack broadband service and determine population and income levels in those areas.

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