WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senators Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) and Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), co-chairs of the Senate Broadband Caucus—along with Senators Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and John Hoeven (R-N.D.)—today introduced bipartisan legislation to improve the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) broadband coverage maps. The Improving Broadband Mapping Accuracy Act directs the FCC to initiate a rulemaking to consider using consumer-reported data and state and local data from government entities to improve broadband mapping accuracy while also considering ways that both fixed and mobile coverage data can be challenged. The bill will help close the digital divide by giving policymakers more accurate data on broadband coverage nationwide.
"Broadband connectivity has become vital in our 21st century economy, but too many West Virginians still don’t have access and are being left behind. That has to change,” Senator Capito said. “Accurate broadband availability maps are essential for us to evaluate who has access and who does not. As a follow up to our letter to Chairman Pai last September, I am proud to join my fellow Senate Broadband Caucus co-chair to introduce a bill that builds upon our work to close the digital divide in rural America. This legislation will allow West Virginians to voluntarily provide valuable feedback about the actual mobile service in their communities; and ultimately, better connect our state and others across the country.”
“With mountainous terrain and low population density, rural states like West Virginia rely on federal funding for much needed investments in broadband. In order to ensure that funding is directed toward the places that need it the most, we need to have more reliable coverage maps based on data that accurately depicts what people on the ground are experiencing,” Senator Manchin said. “As the only member of Congress to formally challenge a federal broadband coverage map through the Mobility Fund Phase II challenge process, I know firsthand just how valuable public input can be in validating and supplementing the provider data that is used to draw these maps. This bill is a good first step, and I hope the FCC will take action to begin this rulemaking process.”
In February, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) chose West Virginia and Minnesota to collaborate with six other states to broaden and update the national broadband availability map. They will join California, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Utah to contribute data and other inputs to improve the accuracy of national broadband mapping.
In September 2018, Senators Capito and Klobuchar led a letter to the FCC highlighting that the commission’s mobile coverage maps and nationwide broadband coverage reports overstated service and quality in rural areas, and they encouraged the FCC to use crowdsourced data to improve coverage maps. Additionally, Senators Capito and Klobuchar joined Senator Manchin in writing a letter to the FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, urging him to evaluate how consumer data can complement Form 477 data to more accurately determine broadband coverage.
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