Wicker Introduces Broadband Data Act

Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, has introduced the Broadband DATA (Deployment Accuracy and Technological Availability) Act, as the chairman signaled at an FCC oversight hearing.

Virtually everyone on both sides of the aisle and at the FCC concede the government's form 477 carrier-reported deployment data collection has not provided accurate maps on where broadband (fixed and mobile) is or isn't. Wicker said at the hearing Wednesday (June 12) that the FCC should stop making broadband deployment funding decisions until it can get a better handle on where the money should go.

That came only days after the FCC announced the second round of Connect America Fund II subsidies for rural broadband deployment.

Related: Senators: FCC Should Diversify Broadband Mapping Data

Wicker said the FCC needed to get its broadband map act together ASAP.

The bill:

1. "Requires the FCC to collect granular service availability data from wired, fixed wireless, and satellite broadband providers.

2. "Requires strong parameters for service availability data collected from mobile broadband providers to ensure accuracy.

3. "Asks the FCC to consider whether to collect verified coverage data from state, local, and tribal governments, as well as from other entities.

4. "Creates a process for consumers, state, local, and Tribal governments, and other groups to challenge FCC maps with their own data, and requires the FCC to determine how to structure the process without making it overly burdensome on challengers."

Related: NTIA Partners with States on New Broadband Maps

At issue is insuring rural areas aren't left behind in the race to universal broadband as well as avoiding/limiting overbuilding with government subsidies where private capital is already providing service.

FCC chair Ajit Pai, who testified at the Commerce Hearing, also said Wednesday he was circulating for an August vote an item that would require carriers to provide more granular data and likely include a crowd sourcing element so the public could help the FCC map broadband availability. He said that either the FCC relies on carriers and outside sources or it would have to hire thousands of people to verify deployment independently.

Also sponsoring the bill are Sens. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Gary Peters (D-Mich.), and John Thune (R-S.D.), who is chair of the Communications Subcommittee.

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.