WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., today convened the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation for a hearing titled, “Broadband Mapping: Challenges and Solutions.” During the hearing, committee members heard from experts about the current state of the nation’s broadband maps and discussed the ongoing efforts within the federal government and private sector to collect more accurate broadband coverage data.
Excerpt from Chairman Wicker’s opening statement, as delivered, below:
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 could provide service to a location within a service interval without an extraordinary commitment of resources. This service interval is approximately seven 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.