FCC chairman Ajit Pai is praising the President's signature on the Brodaband DATA Act, but suggested, as he has in the past, that without Congress' signature on some checks to pay for it, the legislation will hurt, not help, better broadband availability mapping.
The Act requires the FCC to collect more granular data on where broadband is and isn't and to "establish a process to verify the accuracy of such data."
"I applaud the President for signing the Broadband DATA Act and thank the leadership of the Senate and House Commerce Committees for their bipartisan work in moving this legislation through Congress," he said. He also said it confirmed the FCC's Digital Opportunity Data Collection approach, already in progress, to come up with more granular data that can be vetted by the public.
But he said it is imperative that Congress provide the appropriations necessary to implement the act ASAP, as he pointed out he has warned "for some time."
The Act prohibits the Universal Service Administrative Company, which is already funded, to carry out the mapping Congress requires. Given that, said Pai, "if Congress does not act soon, this well-intentioned legislation will have the unfortunate effect of delaying rather than expediting the development of better broadband maps."
Jonathan Spalter, president of USTelecom, agreed it was time to free up the funds.
“At a time when the nation is collectively relying on its communications infrastructure more than ever, and the indispensability of broadband to families, businesses and educators is coming into full view, modernizing our broadband maps to increase connectivity and narrow the gaps in rural America couldn’t be more necessary," Spalter said.
“This was a bipartisan effort from start to finish and it shows in the final product. USTelecom members are proud to have played our part in helping to shape this game-changing mapping plan," he added. "Next step: Congress should fully fund this data-driven project so that future federal broadband spending in our nation will be based on the most accurate and granular map we’ve ever had. That’s a big deal.”
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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.