Broadband Mapping Across the US: Local, State, and Federal Methods and Contradictions
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Federal Efforts to Map Broadband Availability
Twice a year, internet service providers (ISPs) are required to submit Form 477 to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), reporting on where they provide broadband services in the U.S. The FCC states, “For purposes of this form, fixed broadband connections are available in a census block if the provider does, or could” provide fixed broadband service “without undue hardship.” Notably, service need not be active for any household within the census block for the area to be marked as “served.” Further, ISPs are only required to self-report minimum advertised speeds even though actual speeds may differ.
Form 477 data is widely known to overstate broadband availability and distorts the picture of which areas still do not have access to minimum benchmark speeds. There is an overwhelming consensus among FCC officials, members of Congress, and state, local, and Tribal leaders that inaccurate data impacts broadband deployment and funding opportunities for unserved and underserved communities. Still, the FCC relies on Form 477 data to measure annual progress on broadband deployment and create the Fixed Broadband Deployment Map. Does FCC reporting depict your community’s experience?
Highlighting Other State and Local Mapping Efforts
Continuing the Conversation
Next Century Cities is preparing to launch our #ShowMeYourMaps campaign, part of a continued effort to highlight the importance of accurate broadband data. Collecting data on broadband adoption has also become increasingly important to inform strategies on closing the digital divide. Tell us how the Federal Communications Commission can improve its data collection here.
On October 1, 2020, Next Century Cities, as part of the Schools, Hospitals, and Libraries Broadband (SHLB) coalition met with Federal Communications Commission (FCC) staff to discuss reclassifying anchor institutions in broadband mapping data sets.
On October 8, 2019, Next Century Cities, along with other members of the Broadband Connects America coalition, signed onto a letter to the House Energy & Commerce Subcommittee on Communications & Technology regarding efforts to improve national broadband mapping.
NCC Continues its Dialogue With the FCC, Urging it to Accurately Depict Broadband Availability in its 2021 Report
On October 5, 2020, Next Century Cities (NCC), in collaboration with Public Knowledge and Common Cause, filed reply comments with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) reiterating the points made in our September 18th filing on whether broadband is being deployed to all Americans in a timely fashion.
Form 477 data is inherently flawed. Current procedures for submitting Form 477 data allow broadband providers to self-report on the locations they service and speeds they provide without any independent verification. Further, if at least one person in a census tract is able to be served the entire tract is considered served. These shortcomings in data collection allow providers to paint a much more optimistic picture of where broadband is available, blurring areas where it is not.
Next Century Cities Reiterates the Importance of an Accurate Depiction of Broadband Availability in the FCC’s 2021 Broadband Deployment Report
Every day, millions of people across the United States log on to attend school, complete their jobs, and consult with medical professionals. While the need for high-quality broadband predates and will persist after the pandemic, COVID-19 has increased internet traffic on home broadband services. In the past several months, employers, educators, and healthcare providers have had to transition to online platforms. Meanwhile, opportunities for public wi-fi in libraries and coffee shops have decreased, leaving people who were struggling with broadband access even more disconnected and isolated from society.
Next Century Cities Issues a Response to the FCC’S Request for Comment on the Digital Opportunity Data Collection
As NCC states in the public filing, underestimating which households still do not have broadband access or are unable to adopt puts unserved and underserved communities at a distinct disadvantage. Next Century Cities urges the Commission to work in partnership with local government officials and community leaders to develop high quality mapping data that identifies what broadband speeds are available in what areas and at what price.
The broadband data collection activities of the Federal Communication Commission are inaccurate by an “order of magnitude,” agency critics said at a Next Century City panel discussion Thursday on “Creating Accurate and Reliable Broadband Deployment Data.”
On January 16, Next Century Cities joined a group of public interest advocates to meet with the FCC’s Wireline Bureau to discuss key points in the annual evaluation.
Next Century Cities, Public Knowledge, and Common Cause submitted joint reply comments in response to the Federal Communications Commission’s Notice of Inquiry on broadband deployment. The groups urged the Commission to increase the minimum benchmark speed of 25 Mbps/3 Mbps as it fails to meet marketplace demands and is quickly becoming outdated. Further, the comments reiterate that because Form 477 data is neither complete nor accurate, it is not a reliable source for evaluating broadband deployment.
City to City Membership Organization
Communities stepping into the 21st century through next-generation networks face myriad challenges. It is essential to provide crucial support to facilitate these innovative projects. Next Century Cities and our members work to overcome obstacles to success.
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