CHARLESTON — The Federal Communications Commission released its updated National Broadband Map last month and West Virginia officials are asking residents to log on and report inaccuracies about their internet service.
The map will determine how federal funds for broadband improvements are allocated, so it’s crucial that West Virginians paint an accurate picture of the quality of internet service in the state, according to an informational session hosted Monday by Sens. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., and the West Virginia Office of Broadband.
The map can be found at https://broadbandmap.fcc.gov/home. Once users input their address, they can review the reported broadband availability at their location.
If this information is inaccurate, users will have the option of submitting three types of challenges — location, availability and speed. There is a step-by-step guide on how to submit these challenges at https://www.fcc.gov/BroadbandData/consumers.
Challenges must be submitted to the FCC by Jan. 13.
Manchin said West Virginia has 2,400 speed tests that indicate the FCC’s map might be inaccurate. He said the state plans to file a bulk challenge.
“West Virginia is primed to receive and compete for hundreds of millions (of dollars) to bring reliable, affordable broadband access to all of West Virginia, regardless of where they live, but only if those locations are accurately mapped,” Manchin said.
The West Virginia Office of Broadband already has identified some issues with the FCC map, said program manager Jamie Hoffman. He said the map includes 902,699 serviceable locations in the state, but the Office of Broadband has identified at least 138,000 locations that are missing.
Because satellite service is included in the federal map, West Virginia is shown at nearly 100% served, Hoffman said. When satellite is removed, he said, the number drops to about 79%.
Historically, internet service providers have been able to report their own numbers, which further contributes to the inaccuracy of the map, officials said Monday.
This is an “unprecedented opportunity” for West Virginians to challenge the accuracy of the federal map, said Kelly Workman, director of the Office of Broadband.
“These maps have been a challenge — and that’s putting it nicely — for years. Everyone in West Virginia has known for a long time that these maps are not serving our state well,” Workman said.
Each state will receive a baseline of $100 million for broadband improvements, officials said during the session. But as much as $600 million more might be available, Workman said.
That’s why this opportunity is crucial, Capito said.
“Why are we putting such heavy emphasis on this? Because the amount we get is going to be calculated on how many are unserved or underserved in our region,” she said. “That is the key element: Unserved or underserved areas. We think that West Virginia has been way undercounted here, and that is a source of great concern for us.”