Senate Bill Introduced to Improve Broadband Data Maps

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UPDATE Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Roger Wicker, (R-MS), together with Sens. Gary Peters, (D-MI), John Thune, (R-SD), and Amy Klobuchar, (D-MN), introduced the Broadband Deployment Accuracy and Technological Availability (DATA) Act. The legislation would improve the accuracy of the FCC’s broadband availability maps by strengthening the process by which broadband data is collected.

“The FCC’s broadband maps are inaccurate, disadvantaging every taxpayer and rural areas across the country, including many places in my home state,” said Wicker. 

“This legislation is an important step to ensure we get the most accurate coverage maps from the FCC and to help close the digital divide between rural and urban areas.”

Highlights of the bill include:

  • 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 FCC 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 FCC to determine how to structure the process without making it overly burdensome on challengers.

For the full bill text, click here.

Broadband trade associations reacted favorably to the bill. USTelecom is spearheading an industry effort to improve the mapping process, Inside Towers reported. “When USTelecom established the Broadband Mapping Initiative just three months ago, we hoped our concept would not only produce more granular data on broadband service, but serve as a scalable tool for lawmakers to increase broadband in all corners of the country,” said USTelecom President/CEO Jonathan Spalter. We stand ready to make an accurate national broadband map a reality and help deliver connectivity from coast to coast.”

NTCA–The Rural Broadband Association, too, says it’s ready to work with lawmakers on the bill as it moves forward. NTCA CEO Shirley Bloomfield added that the measure, “makes meaningful reforms to our federal mapping systems. Improving broadband availability maps is essential for rural, community-based broadband providers to continue the mission of closing the digital divide.”

The measure will result in the development of a “much-needed and long-overdue updated national broadband map,” stated Genny Morelli, President of ITTA – The Voice of America’s Broadband Providers. “ITTA is especially pleased that the Broadband DATA Act directs the FCC to complete the mapping process before awarding additional funding for broadband deployment.”

June 14, 2019

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