Data & Mapping
The House passed a new version of a bill meant to improve the accuracy of maps detailing where broadband is and isn't available in the US. The legislation is now on a fast track to the Senate, where it's expected to pass before going to President Donald Trump for signing. The bipartisan Broadband Deployment Accuracy and Technological Availability (DATA) Act was passed by the House late in 2019 as part of a broader package of legislation intended to improve the Federal Communications Commission's broadband maps. The Senate also passed a version of the bill.
The National Telecommunications and Information Administration's State Broadband Leaders Network is a powerful forum for connecting local government, industry and stakeholders across the country that are focused on broadband activities.
The persistent problem of the digital divide is hardening into a state of “Internet Inequality.” We know that millions of Virginians still lack access to high-quality affordable broadband. But, because of flaws in how the Federal Communications Commission collects its broadband data, we don’t actually know where they all are. That’s a cause for concern, and I am pleased that our friends in Congress sitting here today are also working to require the FCC to secure reliable broadband deployment data. For too long, the FCC has subsidized networks that are obsolete by the time they are built.
The North Carolina Department of Information Technology (NCDIT) shared data indices that shine a light on the state of broadband access, adoption, and how the digital divide plays out across the state. The indices look at county-level data and reveal a variety of factors. Some results are a stark reality that the digital divide has widened as technology in some regions has advanced — such as indicators that show people have only DSL service and no Internet access at all juxtaposed against those communities where a majority of folks subscribe to available fiber optic connectivity.
T-Mobile says the Federal Communications Commission screwed up 4G measurements in a report that accused the carrier of exaggerating its mobile coverage. The FCC report "incorrectly implies, based on a flawed verification process, that we overstated coverage," T-Mobile said in an FCC filing Feb 17. The FCC staff report, issued in Dec 2019, found that Verizon, T-Mobile, and US Cellular exaggerated their 4G coverage in official filings. As the FCC said, "Overstating mobile broadband coverage misleads the public and can misallocate our limited universal service funds."
Local officials in eight mostly-rural counties in southwest Pennsylvania are combining efforts to determine first, what connectivity is available and, second, what can be done to improve it. Westmoreland, Fayette, Cambria, Somerset, Blair, Bedford, Huntingdon, and Fulton counties have been working with consulting firm Design Nine to develop a survey to share with residents in the region.
The MAPS Act (HR 4227) -- passed by the House of Representatives on December 16, 2019 -- would prohibit any person from willfully, knowingly, or recklessly submitting inaccurate information or data related to the geographic coverage of broadband Internet service to the Federal Communications Commission. Violators would be subject to criminal and civil penalties in the same amounts currently imposed on anyone who knowingly provides inaccurate information to the FCC. CBO estimates that it would cost the FCC less than $500,000 to update rules to implement the act.
Sen Manchin Announces Webpage to Submit Speed Test Results, Learn More About Efforts to Improve Internet Connectivity in West Virginia
Sen Joe Manchin (D-WV) announced a new webpage where constituents can complete and submit an internet speed test to the Federal Communications Commission, and learn more about the fight to bring reliable broadband to rural communities across West Virginia. The webpage can be accessed from a computer or mobile device at manchin.senate.gov/speedtest. If you are experiencing internet speeds below the FCC’s definition of broadband, which is 25 Mbps download and 3 Mbps upload, Senator Manchin wants to hear from you.
A new momentum has taken hold of state government work to support broadband infrastructure, access and usage. This momentum, experts say, is a direct result of an increased societal understanding of broadband as a utility, rather than as somewhat of a frivolous luxury.