Broadband Mapping Bill Introduced

There was more evidence Thursday (May 9) that one thing Washington can agree on is that there needs to be better data on where broadband is and isn't.

Reps. Bob Latta (R-Ohio), ranking member of the House Communications Subcommittee, and Peter Welch (D-Vt.) have introduced the Broadband Mapping After Scrutiny (MAPS) Act 

The bill would create a challenge process to verify fixed and mobile broadband service coverage data, as there currently is for handing out some broadband subsidies, and would require data to be verifiable, but does not explain how that would happen.

“Our communities know better than a map if they have access to fast, reliable broadband,” said Latta. “While we know these broadband maps are inaccurate," said Latta, "there currently isn’t a way for local governments to challenge them -- the Broadband MAPS Act would change that, making it easier for unserved and underserved communities to make their case to the FCC. Better maps mean better broadband availability.”

Related: Senate Looks into Broadband Mapping Issues

Welch sounded like he was trying to convince a dataholic to get treatment. "It is essential that broadband maps accurately depict broadband deployment, especially in rural areas,” he said. “The first step in solving a problem is admitting there is one."

The bill says that "Not later than 6 months after the date of the enactment of this Act, the Commission shall initiate a rulemaking to establish a challenge process to collect and use fixed and mobile broadband service coverage data submitted to the Commission by private entities and State, local, and Tribal government entities to verify fixed and mobile broadband service coverage data reported to the Commission by fixed and mobile broadband service providers."

The bill will include standards for "consistent and accurate" reporting methods and a way to validate the accuracy of the data submitted.

FCC Chairman has conceded the FCC needs better data and a better process than the one that, he pointed out as recently as Thursday, he had inherited when he got the job.

The FCC was bitten by its current broadband data collection regime when it released a draft deployment report based on wildly overinflated figures for one carrier, though the FCC said the corrected report still showed gains.

THe FCC is currently collecting comment on improving broadband data. USTelecom and NCTA-The Internet & Television Association have both offered up competing proposals on how to gather more granular, and thus more accurate, data.

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.