Senators: FCC Should Diversify Broadband Mapping Data Sources

A bipartisan quartet of senators has introduced a bill to improve the FCC's broadband coverage maps, which have come in for a lot of criticism from the Hill and elsewhere.

The Improving Broadband Mapping Accuracy Act requires the FCC to launch a rulemaking, which includes collecting and vetting public comment, on whether to use consumer-reported data and state and local government data to improve the maps currently reliant on industry self-reporting.

The commission would also have to consider ways that alleged coverage, both fixed and mobile, could be challenged.

Introducing the bill are Sens. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), Joe Manchin (D-W. Va.) and John Hoeven (R-N.D.).

Related: Pai Says Major Carriers May Have Violated Mobility Mapping

That bill comes only days after the FCC's most recent Sec. 706 draft report (on advanced communications deployment) appeared to include erroneous carrier data that overstated the closing of the digital divide, data touted by FCC Chairman Ajit Pai.

“In order to deploy broadband nationwide, we need reliable data on where service exists and where it does not,” Klobuchar said. “Our bipartisan legislation will help ensure we are closing the digital divide with accurate mapping and bringing high-speed internet to every family, regardless of their zip code.”

Related: FCC Will Widen Mobility Mapping Challenge Window

Manchin has been particularly vocal about the map deficits when it comes to his home state. On the challenge front, he himself challenged the West Virginia map, saying it overstated availability.

That is important because the maps help determine the availability of billions of dollars in broadband subsidies.

Manchin sought a waiver of the challenge process back in May that allowed him to provide data to challenge the map. The FCC put out the broadband map in February 2018 showing areas eligible for Mobility Fund Phase II money over the next decade. 

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.