Earlier this week, the House and Senate took steps to improve the quality of data used to assess the state of the U.S. broadband market with the passage of legislation that, in the words of Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Daniel Inuoye (D-HI), “will give us the baseline statistics we need . . . to eventually achieve the successful deployment of broadband access and services to all Americans.” Approved unanimously by House members on Monday and adopted by the Senate on Tuesday, the Broadband Data Improvement Act aims to help the FCC and other policymakers more accurately identify areas where broadband access is lacking and to determine U.S. rankings against other nations in terms of broadband penetration, services and speeds. In an order approved last March, the FCC updated its definition of high-speed service and took other steps to improve the collection of broadband data from service providers. Sources say, however, that the bill goes further by requiring the FCC to (1) conduct consumer surveys of broadband usage in urban, suburban and rural areas that cover cost of access and transmission speeds, and (2) compile a list of localities that lack broadband service and that also includes population and income statistics for those areas. The measure also directs the Census Bureau to add questions about Internet usage and connections (i.e., broadband vs. dial-up) to its survey and orders the Government Accountability Office to compare the “availability and quality of broadband offerings” in the U.S. to other industrialized nations. (Statistics compiled by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development rank the U.S. in 15th place internationally in terms of broadband penetration.) President Bush is expected to sign the bill, which a spokesman for media reform group Free Press asserted would “lay the foundation for policies in the next Congress to promote universal, affordable high-speed Internet access.”