The U.S. House of Representatives on Monday passed two bills to help improve the accuracy of broadband maps that would direct federal subsidies to rural operators deploying services in hard-to-reach areas,media CNET reported. Lawmakers are seriously considering figuring out who owns broadband and who doesn’t have better federal subsidies for rural broadband deployments. On Monday, the House of Representatives approved two bills aimed at improving broadband maps.
The bill still needs to be approved by the Senate, and it will be ultimately up to U.S. President Donald Trump to decide whether to sign it.
The Broadband Deployment Accuracy and Technical Availability (DATA) Act requires the U.S. government to collect detailed information about which parts of the United States have access to broadband Internet and where they do not have access to broadband. In addition, the Map Accuracy Promotion Service (MAPS) bill, which passed the House of Representatives on Monday, prohibits anyone from “deliberately, knowingly, or recklessly” submitting information or data covered by a false broadband Internet access service.
The two bipartisan bills are designed to help the Federal Communications Commission improve its current broadband map. Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have attacked the inaccuracy, saying it exaggerates coverage in many of the country’s rural areas.
In summary, the new bills will help spur the FCC to take further action, knowing that its maps are problematic, and voted earlier this year to develop a more granular data collection process to allow ground personnel to enter.
“Accurately mapping the availability of broadband Internet services is critical to promoting high-speed services to all Americans, especially those in underserved areas,” said New Jersey Democrat Frank Pallone, Jr., chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee. “
According to the FCC’s latest report, 21 million Americans currently have no access to broadband at 25Mbps download speeds. Despite the large number, many worry that the actual figure will be even larger, especially in rural areas where FCC data is inaccurate. That’s a problem because the U.S. government spends more than $4 billion a year subsidizing companies that provide broadband in the most inconvenient and expensive places. But because the map is inaccurate, it’s hard to know if the money will be used in the right place.
This is the key to the map. The FCC map should outline where broadband is available and it is not possible to determine who benefits from it. Because every money is important, the FCC must ensure that it targets areas that need services, rather than subsidizing network expansion in areas already covered.
But the current system is used to collect data to create these maps. The FCC uses Data Form 477, which is provided twice a year by Internet service providers, to build overlays. The problem is that it’s the carriers that report the data collected on their own.
Earlier this year, a cable operator mistakenly overstated its coverage, skewed the FCC’s draft broadband deployment report. This mistake exaggerates the progress made in bridging the digital divide. Just this month, the FCC reported that wireless carriers Verizon, T-Mobile and US Cellular were exaggerating their wireless coverage. As a result, the FCC re-established a $4.5 billion subsidy program to bring 4G LTE to rural communities because the data was so unclear. Operators say they are reporting at the FCC’s request.
The MAPS act, passed by the House of Representatives, makes it a crime to deliberately report false reporting. But the bigger problem with broadband maps is related to the parameters set by the FCC to collect data. Currently, broadband providers report coverage based on census blocks, the smallest geographic area used by the U.S. Census Bureau. If services are available in a portion of the census area, the entire district is considered to have broadband. In rural areas, the family may be the only place with access to the Internet for a few miles. This is where the DATA Act will help.
The Association of Competitive Operators (CCA), which represents many small rural operators, praised the House of Representatives for passing the bill. “The Broadband DATA Act and the MAPS Act are critical to ensuring that no Americans are forgotten in the digital world,” Steven Berry, president and chief executive officer of the CCA, said in a statement. “
He added that improving map data collection had always been a top priority for CCA members. “It is vital that maps be based on parameters that accurately reflect the consumer’s ground experience to ensure that all consumers, particularly in underserved and underserved areas, have access to important mobile broadband services,” he said. “