On the May 6th, 2021, episode of The Divide, Nicole Ferraro interviewed Next Century Cities Executive Director, Francella Ochillo. Acknowledging that the digital divide poses unique challenges in each community, Francella highlighted that there is a general consensus about why communities need ubiquitous broadband to improve economic outcomes, education, health, and civic engagement. They discussed the need to elevate community-level perspectives in every level of broadband policymaking. Francella also emphasized how inaccurate broadband data compromises the effectiveness of deployment strategies and funding programs.
Overstating how many communities have affordable and reliable access to broadband guarantees that communities in need continue to be overlooked. Specifically, an inaccurate classification as “served” can create insurmountable obstacles for local officials to secure federal and state funding, with few corrective measures. Poor mapping also disadvantages households that live on the same census blocks where some level of service is available. These are among the many reasons why the Federal Communications Commission should implement data collection protocols that reduce its reliance on Form 477 data. Federal broadband availability data must be verifiable and subject to correction by a variety of stakeholders.
Listen to the 20 minute podcast interview here.