Digital Equity in U.S. Broadband

Analyzing broadband affordability and ISP discrimination in the U.S
Proxy Network
Digital Regulation
University
Research
Hate and Discrimination
UCSB Paul Udit Bright Initiative

About

Researchers Udit Paul and Jiamo Liu from the University of California Santa Barbara (UCSB) are exploring the intricacies of internet availability across the U.S. Their primary focus is on understanding the nature of broadband plans offered by major Internet Service Providers (ISPs) in various cities. The study aims to shed light on the disparities in broadband offerings, particularly the possible discrimination against certain communities.

  • Highlighted the critical role of average income in determining fiber deployment by ISPs in the U.S
  • Analysis revealed up to 600% variance in carriage value within a single city

Challenge

The research team faced significant challenges in collecting accurate and comprehensive data. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) recently released a map displaying ISP-offered maximum download speeds at the address level. However, early indications suggested potential inaccuracies in this data. To validate these concerns, the researchers aimed to collect data directly from ISP websites and compare it with the FCC’s data. However, they encountered IP detection and blocking issues by the ISPs. With the support of Bright Data’s extensive proxy network, including Data Centers, ISP, and Residential Proxies, the researchers could seamlessly obtain the required data without facing blockages.

The Bright Data suite of tools is exceptional and the service is of topmost quality. I look forward to keep working with this wonderful organization in the future.

Udit Paul, Researcher at University of California Santa Barbara

Impact

The collaboration with the Bright Initiative enabled the researchers to curate a first-of-its-kind dataset for over 837k street addresses across the U.S., spanning 18k census block groups in 30 cities. Their analysis unveiled critical insights into the pricing strategies adopted by ISPs, highlighting the importance of competition and its impact on end-users. The study also emphasized the role of income in determining fiber deployment in various block groups. The findings from this research are expected to influence policymakers and regulators in their efforts to ensure digital equity and improve public understanding of broadband affordability in the U.S.

Full Research Publication: Decoding the Divide – Analyzing Disparities in Broadband Plans Offered by Major US ISPs

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