California wireless comes up short

In 2010, the California Public Utilities Commission established the California Broadband Council aimed at “increasing broadband network deployment, and eliminating the Digital Divide by expanding broadband accessibility, literacy, adoption, and usage.”

To that end, the council conducted a thorough look at broadband and recently discovered that the road to greater usage is not necessarily through wireless. In a report to the council, researchers found that, as blogger Steve Blum put it, “These real world results are dramatically different from what mobile carriers claim to provide.” Blum noted that, “Mobile carriers are particularly egregious, claiming Internet connection speeds of 25 Mbps or more in places where it's difficult even to make a phone call.”

In fact, only Verizon Wireless met the 6 Mbps, and that was only in urban areas; elsewhere its was 2.5 Mbps. But even that was speedy compared to Sprint, whose mean download speed was just 512 Kbps. The report was thorough: CPUC drove 35,000 miles around California and tested at 1200 locations.

The conclusion was clear. Wireless carriers advertise high speeds but generally don’t provide them. As Blum said, “If Californians relied on mobile alone, huge swaths of the state would be under or unserved.”

There’s no reason to think that any other state would be different. Although wireless is useful and covers a large area, when it comes to broadband, America needs high-speed wireline connections for all.

California Broadband Council (home page)

Mobile Broadband Field Testing (CPUC, Aug. 14, 2012)

Mobile broadband claims don't match truth in California
(Blog,, Aug. 14, 2012) )