Libraries Prep Paper on FCC Broadband Map Deficits

Screenshot of FCC broadband map
The FCC’s National Broadband Map.

Groups representing the nation’s libraries and other anchor institutions say that the FCC’s new draft broadband map misrepresents public libraries.

The Federal Communications Commission says the map represents the parameters set up by Congress.

The Schools, Health & Libraries Broadband (SHLB) Coalition, the American Library Association and the heads of state library agencies have planned a press conference for Wednesday (February 1) to unveil a paper, “Missing Pieces: How the FCC’s Broadband Map Misrepresents Public Libraries.”

The piece is missing because the new maps do not include schools, libraries, rural hospitals and community centers, the groups said, which means they may be shut out of a piece of the billions of dollars in subsidies to achieve 100% broadband deployment by decade’s end, a Biden administration goal.

Asked about that “misrepresentation” an FCC spokesperson emphasized the impotance of anchor institutions, but also pointed out that the commission is restricted by statute to measuring mass-market broadband.

“Libraries play a key role in keeping us all connected to the services we rely on for modern life,” the spokesperson said in an emailed statement. “We appreciate the continued engagement to ensure that we are all doing our part to make 100% broadband a reality and for spotlighting the role of community anchor institutions in meeting that goal. However, the FCC is fulfilling its duties under the Broadband DATA Act, which directs us to collect data on mass-market services. The map reflects this statutory requirement, as well as the Commission’s longstanding recognition that mass-market services often don’t meet the needs of schools and libraries and instead, they typically subscribe to enterprise services, or services supported through the FCC’s E-rate program.

“The FCC is committed to ensuring the map is as accurate as possible,” the spokesperson continued. “If a community anchor institution, or any other location, is missing we encourage them to file a missing location challenge. If a community anchor institution shown on the map already does subscribe to mass-market services, they can also submit a challenge to correct their building type. We are happy to work with libraries to ensure they understand how they and their patrons can participate in our challenge processes.” ■

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.