internet map

Consumers now have the opportunity to tell the FCC about the quality of their broadband connections, or lack thereof. The commission created an online form where people can “share their broadband experience” as part of a broader effort to update broadband availability data for better broadband availability maps.

The form has only a few routine questions, including state and zip code. Importantly, it has a fill-in-the-blank section into which consumers can describe their broadband problems and what could be done to solve them. The commission asks consumers to limit their answers to no more than 3-5 sentences.

“Stories shared by consumers will help to inform the work of the FCC’s cross-agency Broadband Data Task Force,” the FCC explained in a press release.

Acting FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel established the Broadband Data Task Force last month with the goal of implementing improvements to broadband data and mapping tools. Task force participants include people with experience in various FCC bureaus.

FCC Broadband Data Collection

Current FCC broadband availability data has come under fire in recent years, and almost everyone agrees that it overstates broadband availability because an entire census block is considered to have service even if only one location has broadband available to it. And considering that research from the Center for Rural Affairs identified more than 3,200 census blocks that are larger than the District of Columbia, that’s a major concern.

Congress stepped in last year, passing the Broadband DATA Act directing the commission to fix the problem, but initially didn’t provide sufficient funding. That finally came in the COVID relief legislation adopted in December.

As Rosenworcel explained in a blog post last week, the goal now is to create “a publicly accessible, data-based nationwide map of locations where broadband is truly available throughout the United States.”

Her blog post about FCC broadband data collection efforts highlighted several steps that the commission has taken recently toward that goal including:

  • Creation of the Broadband Data Task Force
  • Procuring an expert data architect and design firm to work with the Commission’s own data and IT systems specialists
  • Issuing a Request for Information to start the contracting process for the creation of the Broadband Serviceable Location Fabric, a common dataset of all locations in the United States where fixed broadband internet access service can be installed

The latter requirement was highlighted by USTelecom after the association researched existing datasets and determined them to be inadequate.

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