09.21.18

Capito, Klobuchar Urge FCC to Ensure Maps Aren’t Overstating Broadband, Mobile Coverage

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senators Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) and Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), co-chairs of the Senate Broadband Caucus, recently urged the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to improve the accuracy of the National Broadband Map by using consumer-reported data. In a letter to FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, the senators called on the FCC to “crowdsource” data in order to produce maps that more accurately reflect the real experiences of consumers in the places they live and work. The FCC’s Speed Test App allows consumers to take sophisticated measurements about the signal strength in a particular area. This data should be used to ensure maps do not overstate coverage. 

“As we work to close the digital divide, it is critical that we understand where broadband is available and where it is not,” the senators wrote. “While the FCC is limited in its ability to verify nationwide mobile coverage at the local level, consumers can provide valuable feedback about the actual availability and strength of service in their own communities … Consumers—as well as state and municipal agencies—can be our eyes and ears on the ground. As we work on improving the accuracy of our coverage maps, we encourage the FCC to consider this as one method to produce the most accurate maps possible.” 

“Inaccuracies in broadband mapping can render the most vulnerable populations within rural communities as ineligible for federal investment, essentially diverting this investment from where it is truly needed,” West Virginia Broadband Enhancement Council Chairman Rob Hinton said. “It is important that we analyze the results of speed test data comparatively to the current FCC Form 477 Data to improve the accuracy and granularity of mapping unserved and underserved regions of rural America. As chairman of the West Virginia Broadband Enhancement Council, I am committed to working with our federal partners to provide the FCC with alternative sources of data that more accurately reflect the level of service being delivered. I thank Senator Capito for her leadership on this important issue.” 

West Virginians can test their internet connection speed on the West Virginia Broadband Enhancement Council’s website here

The full text of the senators’ letter can be found here and below: 

Dear Chairman Pai, 

As we work to close the digital divide, it is critical that we understand where broadband is available and where it is not. In many rural areas, the Federal Communications Commission's (FCC) mobile coverage maps and nationwide broadband coverage reports overstate service quality and geography. To address this issue, we encourage you to improve the National Broadband Map by using consumer-reported data to increase the accuracy of the FCC's mobile coverage maps. 

The information currently collected by the FCC on broadband coverage is not detailed enough to provide an accurate picture of conditions at the local level, especially in rural areas. Without an improvement in data collection, maps will continue to inaccurately suggest service availability in unserved or underserved areas. Too many consumers have experienced the frustration of seeing an area covered on a map only to find out no service or extremely limited coverage is available on the ground. When coverage maps overstate service, it is often rural consumers that pay the price. 

While the FCC is limited in its ability to verify nationwide broadband coverage at the local level, consumers can provide valuable feedback about the actual availability and strength of service in their own communities. By "crowdsourcing" data, the FCC could produce maps that more accurately reflect the real experiences of consumers in the places they live and work. The FCC's Speed Test App allows consumers to take sophisticated measurements about the quality of service in a particular area. This data should be used to ensure maps do not overstate coverage. For example, if a consumer finds that no coverage or limited service exists in an area reported as served, their data should be reflected in the FCC's maps. Consumers—as well as state and municipal agencies—can be our eyes and cars on the ground. As we work on improving the accuracy of our coverage maps, we encourage the FCC to consider this as one method to produce the most accurate maps possible. 

We appreciate your consideration of this request and look forward to working with you on this important issue. 

Sincerely,

 

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