Sen. Manchin Pledges to be FCC's Broadband Speed Pen Pal

Saying the lack of broadband access is having a "devastating" impact on tourism in his state, Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W. Va.) said he plans to be a regular correspondent with FCC chair Ajit Pai on the issue of broadband speeds and availability.

The senator, who has officially challenged some of the FCC's broadband availability data for his state, has sent the FCC the results of speed tests from Wheeling, Sandyville, Renick, Petersburg, Masontown, Great Cacapon, Charleston, and Bruceton Mills, West Virginia which he said shows speeds well below the FCC's definition of high speed broadband.

Related: Senators Say FCC Should Diversify Broadband Mapping Sources

Manchin said if a constituent wants to join the effort, they need only send a screen shot of their speed test and accompanying info and he will include it in his letter-writing campaign.

The FCC is in the process of trying to get more granular, and thus hopefully more accurate, data on where broadband is and isn't, with plans to include a crowdsourcing element so the public can provide feedback on the new data.

The commission voted unanimously, with two partial dissents by the Democrats, on a Report & Order Thursday (Aug. 1) to create a new Digital Opportunity Data Collection regime based on geospatial broadband coverage maps provided by fixed Internet service providers--it does not apply to mobile broadband, at least not yet.

Manchin told Pai he is encouraged by the plans for a formal public feedback loop, but says until a better challenge process and data are adopted, he will continue to provide such data from "people on the ground" in his state.

The commission has been under pressure from both sides of the aisle in Congress to improve data collection, and Pai has conceded the data has to get better, particularly so that Universal Service Fund broadband subsidies can be targeted to where they are most needed, furthering his goal of weeding out waste, as well as fraud and abuse, in subsidy programs. 

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.