FCC Gets Good Early Reviews for New Broadband Maps

U.S. map with digital background
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The Federal Communications Commission gave some folks a sneak peek at the first draft of its new broadband maps — which are to be released Friday (November 18) — and has received some good reviews for the effort, with the caveat that there will be errors in what is by nature an iterative process.

The agency has been working on gathering better data — officially its Broadband Data Collection (BDC) effort — under orders from Congress in the Broadband DATA Act and on its own dime.

“Though imperfect, this first draft will be a marked improvement over existing coverage maps,” said NCTA–The Internet & Television Association, adding that while “far from done,” the map draft is “a promising step forward.” NCTA pointed out it has been all for more accurate maps that don't undercount unserved areas.

Also: FCC Previews New Broadband Data Collection Tool

According to another association that got an early look, the maps are an “impressive leap in technology light-years beyond” the old broadband data reporting form 477 — data from which has been almost universally criticized — with the kind of new granularity stakeholders were looking for.

The map is meant to more accurately target the tens of billions of dollars in broadband subsidies that are being given out to achieve the Biden administration’s pledge of universal broadband access by decade’s end.

Also: Senators Say FCC Should Diversify Broadband Mapping Data

The difference between the current map and past iterations that have drawn criticism for alleged inaccuracies is that the maps used to be based on broadband availability at the census block level, which the FCC says allowed unserved locations to be “hidden” within census blocks with service elsewhere.

Developing the map is iterative because there is a challenge process for the new data that allows stakeholders to point out where there are still errors. ▪️

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.