Brownfield Ag News for America
April 12, 2019
The digital divide and flawed broadband mapping tools were the subject of a Senate hearing this week.
The Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation is examining why some of the mapping by the Federal Communications Commission doesn’t fully capture where broadband is and isn’t available.
Zachary Cikanek, the national spokesperson for Connect Americans Now, says inaccurate maps make it more difficult to allocate resources that could be used to connect rural communities.
“These can be federal funds under the new farm bill, universal service funds at the FCC, or even state grants and loan guarantees,” he says. “It’s also important for private sector investment to know where connectivity is available and where it’s not.”
He tells Brownfield this data is based on a FCC survey question posed to service providers…
“Could you provide broadband service without an extraordinary commitment of resources and the answer to that question is often yes,” he says. “But when you get into some of those communities just because somebody could offer without an extraordinary commitment of resources doesn’t mean they are offering it or that they will offer it.”
The broadband availability map also relies on census block data to determine which areas are served and underserved. But the census blocks are often too big to target broadband investments.
Cikanek says there is a huge disparity between where broadband is available according to the federal map and data usage.
During the hearing, Senator Roger Wicker, chairman of the committee, said developing accurate broadband maps is a priority. He says the committee must make sure that there is a sound understanding of broadband availability across the country.
Connect Americans Now is urging the FCC to fix the question on Form 477 to provide more reliable data.