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President signs broadband data collection bill

The Broadband Data Act encourages wider collection of information regarding nationwide access to broadband.

President Bush on Friday signed into law a bill that would facilitate the collection of data regarding broadband access in the United States, though most of the actions required by the law have already been accomplished by federal regulators.

The Broadband Data Act directs the Federal Communications Commission to redefine broadband, which was largely achieved earlier this year. The commission in March voted to consider 768Kbps, which is the entry-level speed offered by major DSL providers like Verizon, the low end of "basic broadband," a range that extends to under 1.5Mbps. For years, the commission had considered 200Kbps service to be "high speed."

The new law, introduced by Sen. Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, in 2007, requires Internet service providers to give the FCC more detailed reports so the FCC can identify the actual numbers of broadband connections by customer type and geographic area. The FCC adopted this measure in March as well, though the act requires the commission to use the reports to collect demographic data for geographical areas without advanced telecommunications capabilities.

A few studies are required by the new law, such as an evaluation by the Small Business Administration Office of Advocacy on the impact of broadband speed and price on small businesses. The bill also establishes a grant program for organizations to track and promote Internet usage.

A provision was also added to the bill by Congress to promote Internet safety for children. The law requires the Federal Trade Commission to establish a nationwide campaign "to increase public awareness and provide education regarding strategies to promote the safe use of the Internet by children."