Signs of progress on broadband mapping, but more work still to do

Map showing how FCC indicates broadband access not available to 24.7 million Americans

As the FCC is poised to deliver more than $20 billion in federal subsidies to internet service providers in the coming years aimed at expanding broadband access to unserved parts of the country, it’s critical the data that informs the national broadband map is accurate. It’s been clear for some time that it is not, and improvements are needed to ensure people in America were receiving the access they deserve. We’re pleased to see the FCC take a step forward on acquiring more accurate data with an order slated for adoption on Aug. 1.

In that order, the FCC is proposing many adjustments to how data on broadband access and usage is collected which should lead to a more accurate map of the country. Indeed, many of the fixes proposed by the FCC mirror our suggestions issued earlier this year. Specifically, there are proposed changes to increase the granularity of the data to a better measure than an entire census block, as well as a cap on the language around “could provide” to make it much more narrow and bolstering this self-reported access data with usage and other data. All together, these measures should improve accuracy.

There is still more work to be done, however, to improve the data and ultimately close the digital divide in America. Until and unless the FCC and Universal Service Administrative Company fully implement the new Digital Opportunity Data Collection and use it both for its broadband report and funding decisions, the FCC should take the opportunity to improve its Form 477, since this form is currently being used to assess progress and decide funding. It’s important that the most accurate data methodology is used to not only distribute funds, but also to assess progress. Without improved data, we encourage the FCC to take steps to amend its Form 477 to obtain more accurate data to inform both its broadband report and its funding decisions, and we encourage Congress to continue its work on proposed legislation that also addresses these important issues.

Based on our data, about half of all Americans are not using the internet at broadband speeds at home. This digital divide should be seen for the national crisis it is – without equal access to connectivity, we cannot provide equal opportunities to all Americans. We appreciate the important progress to date, and will continue to work with the FCC and members of Congress to ensure we have the right data to close the broadband gap as quickly as possible.

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