The FCC has obtained detailed broadband maps from ISPs for the first time ever

Getty Images | Matt Anderson Photography

The Federal Communications Commission has gathered specific information about broadband availability from internet service providers for the first time and aims to release a first draft of a new broadband map in November, the Federal Communications Commission president wrote on Friday. FCC, Jessica Rosenworcel.

Last week, the FCC “completed the first filing window to submit data on where broadband service is and isn’t available,” a milestone in the long-running process of creating a accurate map of broadband in the United States, she wrote. “For the first time ever, we’ve collected detailed location-by-location data on exactly where broadband services are available, and now we’re ready to get to work and start developing new and improved broadband maps. “

The resulting map should indicate whether fixed broadband service is available in each residence or place of business. The FCC’s inaccurate broadband maps have long made it difficult to distribute deployment grants where they are needed most.

Current maps are based on the Form 477 data collection program in which ISPs indicate whether they offer service in each census block, essentially allowing ISPs to count an entire census block as served even if it can only serve one household in the region. The new, more accurate maps will be used to help distribute $42.45 billion from the Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment program created by Congress in the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.

Bad data stings internet users

ISPs, in many cases, gave potential customers false information, leading them to believe that Internet access would be available in homes that do not have it. Comcast and other ISPs demanded thousands of dollars in upfront fees to wire homes even after a falsely promising service became available at a specific address. The FCC mapping upgrade isn’t designed specifically to fix this problem, but it could ultimately make it easier for owners to get accurate information.

The FCC voted in August 2019 to require ISPs to submit more accurate data, despite major broadband industry trade groups opposing the requirement to report availability below the block level. census. Congress followed by imposing legislation with similar requirements and provided $98 million for the mapping overhaul in December 2020. A letter from Rosenworcel to members of Congress in March 2021 explained why the process would not be completed quickly. :

To fully implement the Broadband Act, the Commission needs to revamp its data collection methods and platform. We need to create a framework that allows massive amounts of data from many different sources to be linked together and feed into a comprehensive, user-friendly dataset of broadband availability. We also need to develop, test and launch computer systems to collect and verify these different data. We need to create, for the first time, a publicly available, data-based map of usable locations where broadband is or should be available in the United States.

We then need to collect accurate and comprehensive data from each broadband service provider on the precise location where they offer broadband services, no longer relying on census blocks, but working down to the location of every home and small business, then overlay that information on our map. usable locations. And finally, we need to find a way to collect data from a myriad of independent sources, including state and local governments, tribal nations, consumers, and other private and public third parties, that will help us complete and to verify the information we collect from the Service. suppliers.

As Rosenworcel explained on Friday, the FCC has since created “the first-ever nationwide dataset capturing individual locations that are expected to have fixed broadband service availability” based on “address records, tax assessment records, building images and footprints, census data, land use records, parcel boundaries, and road and street geospatial data.Our older broadband maps, on the other hand , did not have any of this location-specific information.

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