If you believe the US Federal Communications Commission, last June’s end of net neutrality—the system that required internet service providers to treat all data equally—has helped more Americans get broadband access. But the data behind this claim is highly controversial.
Every year, the FCC releases a report showing the state of broadband access in the US. This report is the government’s main source of information for measuring connectivity and helps determine how billions in broadband subsidies are allocated. When a draft of this year’s report, circulated in February, found large gains in the number of people with broadband, FCC chairman Ajit Pai claimed it showed that “our approach is working.” (Pai has said that net neutrality is bad for consumers because it discourages innovation.) After activists spotted errors in the draft, the commission adjusted the numbers, but Pai insisted that “the new data doesn’t change the report’s fundamental conclusion”: the so-called digital divide is narrowing.