Cross-Party Reps Introduce Bills to Improve Broadband Data Maps

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Representatives Dave Loebsack (D-IA) and Bob Latta (R-OH) introduced legislation to improve the accuracy of the FCC broadband availability maps by changing the way the information is collected. Reps. Billy Long (R-MO) and Donald McEachin (D-VA) are co-sponsoring the “Broadband Deployment Accuracy and Technological Availability (DATA) Act (HR 4229).’’ Legislation similar to the Broadband DATA Act has been introduced in the Senate by Sens. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Roger Wicker (R-MS), Gary Peters (D-MI) and John Thune (R-SD).

Additionally, Reps. McEachin and Long also introduced the “Mapping Accuracy Promotes Services (MAPS) Act (HR 4227),” to help hold broadband providers accountable by making it against the law to “knowingly, willfully, or recklessly” provide inaccurate data to the FCC.

 Loebsack and Latta also cosponsored this bill.

“In order to actually fix the problem and get high-speed broadband to rural areas, we must have the best data available. Without knowing where the high-speed broadband problem truly exists, we cannot properly invest in building out access,” said Loebsack. With this legislation, we’ll be better able to pinpoint areas that are lacking coverage, and help ensure that unserved and underserved communities have better broadband availability,” said Latta. 

Specifically, the Broadband Deployment Accuracy and Technological Availability (DATA) Act:

  • Requires the FCC to collect granular service availability data from wired, fixed wireless, and satellite broadband providers.
  • Requires strong parameters for service availability data collected from mobile broadband providers to ensure accuracy.
  • Asks the Commission to consider whether to collect verified coverage data from state, local, and tribal governments, as well as from other entities.
  • Creates a process for consumers, state, local, and tribal governments, and other groups to challenge FCC maps with their own data, and requires the agency to determine how to structure the process without making it overly burdensome on challengers.

“Improving broadband availability maps is essential for rural, community-based broadband providers to continue the mission of closing the digital divide. The Broadband DATA Act makes meaningful reforms to our federal mapping systems,” said Shirley Bloomfield, CEO of NTCA–The Rural Broadband Association. The organization also supports the MAPS Act.

USTelecom President/CEO Jonathan Spalter supports the “clear path” set by the lawmakers “to finally improve the obsolete maps preventing homes and businesses in rural America from getting the service they deserve.” He called the bills “a giant step forward” to ensuring agencies, policymakers and providers have reliable data to connect more communities to broadband, while ensuring every dollar of federal broadband support goes to consumers who need it. “Combined with the bipartisan work in the Senate and support at the FCC and throughout the federal and state governments, we are optimistic that better national broadband maps will soon be a reality,” said Spalter.

September 10, 2019            

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