Comcast Pushes Shapefile Broadband Mapping Approach

Comcast met with FCC officials last week to urge them to adopt NCTA-The Internet & Television Association's proposal to use polygon shapefiles to more accurately map broadband deployment, including where service could be lit up in a matter of days, which it argues should count as served.

Related: Senators Offer Shapefile Broadband Mapping Bill

The FCC knows it has to do a better job of identifying where broadband is and isn't deployed.

NCTA wants an approach that is more granular than census blocks, which could cut down on underbuilding and overbuilding.

Related: Senate Tries to Get Read on Broadband Mapping

In their meeting with FCC officials, the Comcast execs made that point, including with a visual aid (see graphic) to show that shapefiles "accurately reflect coverage in partially served census blocks that may not be depicted correctly in the current broadband map."

Comcast also pointed out that the NCTA method would identify as served locations " to which a service provider could provide service within 7 to 10 business days without any heavy lifting. That was a point NCTA made in its proposal, saying that “any revision to the reporting requirements should make clear that areas where a provider can respond to a request for service in a standard installation interval without special construction charges should be reported as served.”

Related: NCTA Defends Shapefile Mapping Approach

The FCC is under bipartisan pressure from Congress to improve its broadband mapping since knowing where broadband is and isn't is crucial to closing the digital divide, a key policy goal for the White House, the Congress and the FCC as the internet of things becomes the internet of everything.

Last month, FCC chair Ajit Pai indicated to Congress that he was circulating a Report and Order for a vote at the August meeting that would provide more granular and accurate broadband maps, though he did not say just what approach the FCC would take. He did say that would mean requiring broadband providers to report "where they actually offer service below the census block level."

Pai said the FCC would also be looking to incorporate public feedback into that mapping efforts.

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.