The House Committee on Small Business Subcommittee on Contracting and Infrastructure met June 25 to hear testimony from a group of rural telecommunications providers on improving the quality of current broadband maps to collect more accurate broadband coverage data.
As subcommittee Chairman Rep. Jared Golden (D-ME-2) said, “Public access to an accurate broadband map is essential to effectively building out high-speed broadband infrastructure to the nation’s underserved populations.”
The hearing took place following a Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee oversight hearing in June, where Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai testified. There, he announced that the FCC will vote on an order at their monthly meeting in August “requiring broadband providers to report where they actually offer service below the census block level, and looking to incorporate public feedback into our mapping efforts.”
The committee expressed concern over the way broadband data is reported and mapped, citing specific instances of both overstatement and understatement of broadband coverage in rural areas. These inaccuracies, they said, disincentivize small business growth in rural areas. High-speed broadband coverage is essential to small rural carriers, but inaccurate broadband maps make access appear questionable.
While many improvements were suggested to improve the granularity of broadband data, witness Jason Hendricks of Range Companies and the Western Telecommunications Alliance also pointed out that Form 477, the FCC’s broadband reporting form, currently has a significant regulatory compliance burden on small rural carriers. Improvements to broadband mapping systems, he said, should also be “consistent with capabilities easily available to providers, match the network characteristics of providers, and allow for easy upload with minimal effort.”
The FCC’s proposal will improve the state of broadband mapping to be more granular and more accurate, so small businesses can provide underserved rural communities with access to reliable high-speed broadband.
The committee’s focus will be to use these improved broadband maps to better invest federal funds for broadband deployment in areas where it is truly needed.
Author: Katie Ryerson
Photo credit: Ryan Morse