By Lukas Pietrzak, Policy Associate
During the first week of November 2020, Next Century Cities highlighted efforts across the United States to accurately map broadband availability data. State and municipal governments are working hard to correct inaccuracies in the federal broadband data collection, gathering information from a variety of stakeholders in order to develop a clear picture of the digital divide in their communities.
Their work is more important than ever as Federal Communications Commission officials, members of Congress, and state, local, and Tribal leaders agree that inaccurate data does not only impact broadband deployment, but can limit funding opportunities for unserved and underserved communities.
The week began in Montana where local officials, farmers, and concerned citizens are coming together to draw attention to inaccurate maps across the state. These communities rely on accurate maps to receive federal funding that is crucial for expanding broadband access. In Oregon, local residents answered the call for more accurate maps directly as they came together to map their broadband speeds and availability.
In one community, Eugene, Oregon, for example, these efforts transformed their broadband network from the 22nd slowest in the state to one of the fastest in the country. 2,000 miles away in Wisconsin, over 40% of rural residents lack access to fast, affordable, and reliable broadband. Their Public Service Commission overcame this challenge by collecting data directly from consumers to plan future investments.
In West Virginia, the National Radio Quiet Zone leaves many residents without access to wireless solutions to help close the digital divide. Instead, they must place increasing emphasis on fixed wired solutions that bring them online while protecting radio-astronomy. Georgia took matters into their own hands and recently released an interactive broadband deployment map for policymakers and residents. This is an important first step in closing the digital divide in the state and connecting every Georgian.
It is impossible to close the digital divide without being able to measure which communities are connected versus those that are still waiting for high-speed connectivity. Collecting data on broadband adoption has also become increasingly important to inform strategies on closing the digital divide. Next Century Cities is preparing to launch our #ShowMeYourMaps campaign, part of a continued effort to highlight the importance of accurate broadband data. Check out our Mapping Across America page for updates.