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Broadband Data Act Passes...Again

The Broadband Deployment Accuracy and Technological Availability (DATA) Act has passed the House by unanimous consent, which is a way to fast track a bill vote off the floor and only works if no one objects.

The bill, which is meant to get better broadband deployment data out of the FCC, must still pass the Senate and be signed by the President.

A Senate version already passed (as did a separate House version last year, but a different version, so the two had to be reconciled). The new House version was amended on the floor, so the Senate will have to revote it. A House source said Senate leaders agreed with the change and it is expected to pass without issue in the Senate.

The bill requires the FCC to issue new rules "to require the collection and dissemination of granular broadband availability data and to establish a process to verify the accuracy of such data, and more."  

The bill essentially pushes an effort already underway at the FCC. The commission voted earlier this year to come up with a more granular broadband data collection process that could be crowd-vetted.  

“Today, the House once again passed legislation to fix our nation’s faulty broadband maps," said its Democratic supporters, which included Energy & Commerce Committee Chairman Frank Pallone (D-N.J.) and Communications Subcommittee Chairman Mike Doyle. "This bill is the result of an agreement with the Senate to merge multiple bills into one package that can be signed by the President. Accurately mapping the availability of broadband internet service is essential to promoting the deployment of high-speed service to all Americans, especially those in unserved and underserved areas."

The legislators did not cite the FCC's plans for a new data-collection regime, saying: "It’s unfortunate that the Federal Communications Commission has failed to address these issues on its own, but this bipartisan bill marks a huge step forward in building out broadband where it is needed."

“I commend the House for passing the Broadband DATA Act," said Competitive Carriers Association President Steven K. Berry. "Every Member of Congress knows the parts of their district that have insufficient or no broadband service, and this legislation will help ensure that these areas can access the advanced broadband services they need and deserve. Reliable data is essential to improving the maps and achieving the FCC’s goal of closing the digital divide. I thank the House for passing this legislation and urge the Senate to act swiftly to send it to the President’s desk for enactment.

“Today’s vote in the House brings us closer than ever to fixing our outdated broadband maps and getting a clearer picture of who has – and who still lacks – 21st century broadband connectivity," said USTelecom President Jonathan Spalter. "This is a major, data-driven step forward in how we map broadband, and ultimately close the digital divide, in rural America." 

"WISPA applauds today’s House passage of S. 1822, a bipartisan, merged House-Senate broadband mapping bill, which seeks to fix our broken broadband maps," said Christina Mason, VP of government affairs, for the Wireless Internet Service Providers Association. "If signed into law, S. 1822 would go far in shepherding limited government support to areas that truly lack broadband, efficiently delivering Internet access to those who really need it, without overbuilding ISPs already there."

“While our way of life is becoming more reliant on technologies, 19 million Americans – including one-fourth of people in rural areas – still do not have access to broadband services," said House Energy and Commerce Committee ranking member Greg Walden (R-Ore) and Communications Subcommittee ranking member Bob Latta (R-Ohio). "We cannot expand broadband to communities who lack adequate access without understanding exactly where those communities are, which is why this effort is so important. This bipartisan bill will help us assess the availability of internet across our country and take the necessary steps to improve connectivity for all Americans, regardless of their zip code. Importantly, this bill will also make sure we do not repeat past mistakes by better directing our limited resources to the communities who need them most. We look forward to our Senate colleagues taking swift action on this bill and President Trump signing it into law,” Walden and Latta said."

John Eggerton
John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.