FCC Unveils New Broadband Map

Screenshot of FCC broadband map
A screenshot of the FCC's new online National Broadband Map.

As promised, the FCC has released its first draft of a new broadband availability map meant to more accurately represent broadband coverage as the Biden administration pushes tens of billions of dollars toward its universal broadband pledge.

The map shows location-level information (opens in new tab) about broadband availability, an upgrade from the census-level data the Federal Communications Commission previously collected and which had allowed some broadband dead zones to appear live if they were in census blocks with service elsewhere.

The FCC has signaled the maps are an iterative process that will be improved by challenges to errors.

Also: FCC Approves Broadband Label Rules

The better maps were mandated by Congress but the FCC was already at work on improving its broadband data collection, which had been roundly criticized on the Hill.

“Today is an important milestone in our effort to help everyone, everywhere get specific information about what broadband options are available for their homes, and pinpointing places in the country where communities do not have the service they need,” FCC chair Jessica Rosenworcel said. “By painting a more accurate picture of where broadband is and is not, local, state, and federal partners can better work together to ensure no one is left on the wrong side of the digital divide.”

Those state partners are particularly in need of assistance as they hand out tens of billions in new broadband subsidy money.

Stakeholders who got an early look at the draft maps were generally pleased with what they agreed with the FCC was a first step in an iterative process.

In addition to the map, the FCC also launched an updated version of its speed-test app that broadband subs can use to compare their actual mobile broadband performance and coverage to their providers’ reported performance and coverage, then submit that info as part of a challenge to the map if their service coverage doesn't measure up. ▪️

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.