U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., chairman of the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, will convene a hearing titled, “Broadband Mapping: Challenges and Solutions,” at 10:00 a.m. on Wednesday, April 10, 2019. The hearing will examine the current state of the nation’s broadband maps, and evaluate the ongoing efforts within the federal government and private sector to collect more accurate broadband coverage data. The hearing also will examine ways to increase coordination among federal agencies that administer broadband deployment programs to ensure resources are targeted to unserved areas.
- Mr. Tim Donovan, Senior Vice President, Competitive Carriers Association
- Mr. Mike McCormick, President, Mississippi Farm Bureau Federation
- Mr. Mike Oblizalo, Vice President and General Manager, Hood Canal Communications
- Mr. Jonathan Spalter, President and Chief Executive Officer, United States Telecom Association
- Mr. Chip Strange, Vice President, Strategic Initiatives, Ookla
*Witness list subject to change
Wednesday, April 10, 2019
Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation
This hearing will take place in the Dirksen Senate Office Building G50. Witness testimony, opening statements, and a live video of the hearing will be available on www.commerce.senate.gov.
Chairman Roger Wicker
Good morning. Today, the committee gathers to discuss the state of the nation’s broadband maps. I am glad to convene this hearing with my colleague, Ranking Member Cantwell. I welcome our witnesses today:
- Mr. Tim Donovan, Senior Vice President, with the Competitive Carriers Association
- Mr. Mike McCormick, President of the Mississippi Farm Bureau Federation
- Mr. Jonathan Spalter, President and CEO of USTelecom – The Broadband Association;
- Mr. Chip Strange, Vice President Strategic Initiatives, Ookla; and
- Mr. Mike Obilzalo, Vice President and General Manager, Hood Canal Communications.
In today’s digital economy, access to broadband is essential. It is through broadband that Americans can access jobs, education, and economic opportunities. Broadband also powers new industries and enables core economic sectors such as agriculture, manufacturing, and transportation to be more efficient, productive, and competitive in the United States and around the globe.
In February, the Federal Communications Commission issued its draft 2019 Broadband Deployment Report showing gains in broadband connectivity throughout the country. However, the digital divide persists for far too many families in Mississippi and across the nation.
As I have said before, we are almost one-fifth of the way through the 21stCentury, hard to believe. And we ought to be able to get all Americans connected soon.
To close the digital divide, we need to have accurate broadband maps that tell us where broadband is available and where it is not available at certain speeds. This is critical because maps are used to inform federal agencies about where to direct broadband support. Flawed and inaccurate maps ultimately waste resources and stifle opportunities for economic development in our rural and underserved communities.
I hope our witnesses today will speak to the costs, timing, and potential challenges to collecting more accurate and granular broadband coverage data, including whether the data will be too out of date to be useful once it is all gathered.
I would also like the witnesses to address how to improve existing broadband mapping approaches at the FCC and NTIA, and whether the FCC is collecting the right data to determine the availability of fixed and reliable mobile broadband across the country.
Improving the nation’s broadband maps starts with better coordination and information sharing among federal agencies responsible for administering broadband deployment programs.
I hope we will soon have legislation in this regard. It is important that the FCC, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture work cooperatively to coordinate and share information on broadband coverage data and broadband deployment programs.
Increased coordination and information sharing would enhance efforts to develop a more accurate broadband map and ensure federal funds are targeted to unserved areas.
Improving broadband maps also requires the collection of more granular and accurate data about existing broadband coverage. To that end, I welcome the FCC’s ongoing proceeding to address shortcomings in its Form 477, which is used to collect broadband deployment data from service providers twice a year. The data is then used to develop a broadband map that helps the Commission determine areas that are eligible for Universal Service support.
An obvious concern with the Form, among others, is that it asks providers to submit data about where they couldprovide service to a location within a service interval without an extraordinary commitment of resources. This service interval is approximately 7 to 10 business days.
I hope the witnesses will comment on ideas being discussed to replace or supplement the Form 477 data, such as using location-based proposals or shapefile-based proposals.
In submitting information about where service could be provided, I am concerned that this information is represented on the FCC’s broadband availability maps with little verification about whether the service provider could or would actually provide the service at the advertised speed. Incorporating data about where service could be provided may ultimately lead to overstated broadband coverage and availability on maps.
So I would like the witnesses to comment on the value of maintaining a challenge process after data is collected to verify the accuracy of the data provided to the FCC.
Developing accurate broadband maps is a priority for this Committee. With so much at stake, it is incumbent upon us to find ways to ensure that we have sound understanding of existing broadband availability across the country.
The committee welcomes input from the witnesses on the appropriate role for Congress in developing accurate maps.
I look forward to a thoughtful discussion on these issues and again welcome all of our witnesses.
Witness Panel 1
Mr. Tim DonovanSenior Vice PresidentCompetitive Carriers Association
Mr. Mike McCormickPresidentMississippi Farm Bureau Federation
Mr. Mike OblizaloVice President and General ManagerHood Canal Communications
Mr. Jonathan SpalterPresident and Chief Executive OfficerUnited States Telecom Association
Mr. Chip StrangeVice PresidentStrategic Initiatives, Ookla