Acting FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel declined to say whether the FCC will be able to improve its broadband mapping in the four-month time frame that Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) said Rosenworcel had "intimated" to her was possible.
Rosenworcel was answering questions in a press conference following the March 17 monthly meeting, while Cantwell was talking about that time frame in a hearing the same day on "Recent Federal Actions to Expand Broadband: Are We Making Progress?"
Both Cantwell and ranking member Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) expressed their hopes at the hearing that the FCC could get out better maps on where broadband is and isn't as soon as possible, with Wicker saying that Congress was just looking for guidance on how it could help speed that timeline.
At the hearing, after Wicker had said Rosenworcel had recently said a mapping revamp would not be completed until 2022, that she had had a conversation with the acting chairwoman "who intimated she thought it was a four-month answer on the mapping."
In a letter to Rosenworcel from Wicker and other Republicans earlier this month, they pointed out that before she was acting chairwoman, Rosenworcel had repeatedly told Congress that the FCC could radically improve maps "within 3-6 months," and in "just a few" months.
Wicker said he thought four months sounded doable, that he thought that was something "that the Senate expects," and he hoped that was correct "if it was, indeed, possible."
Rosenworcel was asked to confirm that 4-month time frame, but would not commit to a number, though she did say they had had a great conversation, agreed that mapping is a priority, and that the sooner it got done the better. She also said that she thought a "meaningful difference" in mapping was achievable "in a matter of months and not just years."
But she also said the FCC had been talking about this for a long time, could have started it under the former administration, and under her watch the FCC had done more in a few weeks than the previous FCC did in the last year, including creating a Broadband Data Task Force and launching a procurement process, and would have a consumer input tool up and running soon."
Nobody was more vocal under former FCC Chairman Ajit Pai than then-commissioner Rosenworcel about getting better maps before spending billions in broadband subsidies.
Asked what he thought a reasonable time frame was for those better maps, former FCC Commissioner Michael O'Rielly, a witness at the hearing, said he was not part of the internal conversations anymore so couldn't put a number on it, but said that he thought if Congress gave the FCC an expedited time frame, it was likely to meet it, which O'Rielly said he thought was critical and Wicker agreed.
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.
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