Data & Mapping
How the FCC wasted $45 billion on rural “broadband” and what the current FCC/Congress/Administration should have learned.
Before spending an additional $100 billion of public money on rural broadband, avoiding the mistakes of the past decade would be a good place to start.
Lesson #1: The digital divide was not a consequence of rural economics; it has been the policy of the federal government. Broadband is not simply a speed at a point in time. Rather than focus on a short-term goal of attaining any particular speed, public funding is better spent on long-term infrastructure, best defined as assets with a life of at least thirty years.
In March 2020, the House and Senate passed the Broadband DATA Act unanimously and President Donald Trump signed it into law. Lawmakers seem to think the new data will itself fix the homework gap. But we need Congress and the Federal Communications Commission to improve data for all the factors that prevent Americans from using broadband service—including affordability and the speeds you’ll actually get in rural areas. Former FCC Chairman Ajit Pai liked to tout that the number of Americans without broadband acces
In a letter to the Federal Communications Commission Acting Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel, a group of senators urged the FCC to ensure that state, local, and tribal governments are included in efforts to update nationwide broadband maps. Following decades-long use of inaccurate data maps that denied broadband funding to eligible communities, the FCC was charged by Congress with creating new maps in 2020 to accurately depict the current state of broadband access in our nation.
The Biden administration’s $2 trillion infrastructure plan includes $100 billion to extend broadband networks to all US households. But officials relying on industry data produced inaccurate maps of internet deployment. As a result, the US doesn’t know where to find everyone lacking service. “The biggest problem is false positives -- places shown as having broadband when they don’t,” said Michael Romano, senior vice president at NTCA - The Rural Broadband Association.
Sen. Roger Wicker (R-MS), ranking member of the Senate Commerce Committee, sent a letter to Senate Commerce Committee Chairwoman Maria Cantwell, requesting that the Committee hold a Federal Communications Commission oversight hearing to discuss the agency’s plans and timelines for developing new broadband maps.
Respecting the limitations of the speed-test data, I analyze a sample of over 100 million speed-tests conducted in the US in 2020. Through its Open Data Initiative, the data are made available by Ookla (speedtest.net). I also link the Ookla Speedtest data to the Federal Communications Commission’s Form 477 data for comparison purposes.
The California Emerging Technology Fund (CETF) released its 2021 Statewide Broadband Adoption Survey, in partnership with the University of Southern California, in a summary report titled Internet Adoption and the "Digital Divide" in California. The CETF survey tracks the progress of broadband deployment and adoption throughout CA from 2008 to 2021 and finds more than 90% of the state’s households have high-speed Internet connectivity at home through either a computing device or a smartphone, but 9.6% still are not connected. Home broadband adoption is increasing, up 3 percentage points fro
A spending plan from the Federal Communications Commission in accordance with section 15011(b)(1)(B) of the Coronavirus Aid Relief and Economic Security Act (CARES Act), Pub. L. No 116-136, as amended by Title VIII of Division O of the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021, Pub. L. No. 116-260. The requirement in section 15011 of the CARES Act states that each agency shall submit to the Pandemic Response Accountability Committee a plan describing how the agency will use its covered funds.
On March 8, 2021, Senate Commerce Committee Ranking Member Roger Wicker (R-MS), Communication Subcommittee Ranking Member John Thune (R-SD), House Commerce Committee Ranking Member Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA), and Communications Subcommittee Ranking Member Bob Latta (R-OH) wrote to Federal Communications Commission Acting Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel expressing surprise that Acting Chair Rosenworcel testified that the FCC could improve broadband maps within three-to-six months, but that the FCC suggested recently that new maps would not be ready until 2022.
In this final installment of the "Build Back Better with Biden FCC", we look at the broad sweep of other—yet no less important—issues which the Federal Communications Commission must deal with as the deciding actor including: