WASHINGTON, D.C. (NEXSTAR) – A bi-partisan group of Senators is working to address concerns about broadband mapping. The Federal Communications Commission uses it to determine how billions of dollars are distributed to increase access to broadband. Some lawmakers worry the current mapping process has flaws and needs to be updated to make sure rural and under-served areas get the funding they need.
Senators said access to broadband is all about location. “I can drive through my state and tell you where we are going to have dropped service and no service” said Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, (R) West Virginia.
Senator Capito said current maps used by the FCC to distribute funding don’t accurately show where there is poor or no connectivity. Members of the bi-partisan Senate Broadband Caucus said without good data, they can’t pass policies to effectively address the problem.
“If we don’t get this right we can’t get anything else right” said John Boozman (R) Arkansas.
“The FCC’s maps overstate coverage in many rural areas” said Senator Amy Klobachur (D) Minnesota. “This means communities that need help to deploy broadband are ineligible to receive federal funds”.
The Federal Communications Commission agrees its collection process has flaws. But officials said updating the mapping process takes time.
“It’s challenging with a 150 million or so addresses nationwide,” said Kris Monteith, FCC Wireline Competition Bureau
Lawmakers are working on ways to speed up the drawing of more accurate maps. One proposed bill directs the FCC to consider using consumer reported data as well as data from state and local governments.
Supporters said federal officals, carriers and other stakeholders must work together on solutions or underserved communities will continue to struggle.
“If those of us who are left behind in the digital divide aren’t able to close that divide we are going to drag the rest of our state and our regions with us. We don’t want to see that” said Senator Capito.
Lawmakers are also pushing for broadband funding t obe included in any infrastruture deal.