Pai Warns That FCC Does Not Have Funds to Implement Broadband DATA Act
President Trump on Monday signed the Broadband Deployment Accuracy and Technological Availability Act (Broadband DATA Act, S. 1822), a rare piece of communications legislation in that it attracted bipartisan support. The bill’s passage reflects the near universal agreement that the FCC needs more granular data to promote rural broadband growth. The Act calls for the FCC to establish a “Broadband Serviceable Location Fabric” based on geocoding to establish accurate locations of wired, fixed wireless, satellite and mobile broadband availability.
However, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai warned that the FCC currently does not have the funds to implement the new law. Congress, while passing the requirements to upgrade the Commission’s broadband measurements, did not pass an appropriation to do so. “Given the Act’s prohibition on the Universal Service Administrative Company performing this mapping work, if Congress does not act soon, this well-intentioned legislation will have the unfortunate effect of delaying rather than expediting the development of a better broadband map,” he said in a statement.
Pai otherwise praised the bill. He said that the Act “affirms the FCC’s approach to collecting more precise and granular broadband data through our new Digital Opportunity Data Collection program,” which the FCC adopted last year.
The FCC currently is preparing for Phase I of Rural Digital Opportunity Fund distribution. It has scheduled the reverse auction for the $16 billion RDOF Phase I for Oct. 22, 2020. It will auction census blocks that it deems to be totally unserved based on data from FCC Form 477 and from evidence presented in Form 477 challenges. It aims to reach partially served census blocks in the $4 billion RDOF Phase II, which will require the use of more granular data. The Commission has yet to set a start date for Phase II.
NRTC last week announced that it has acquired CrowdFiber. The software and sales automation company has a powerful mapping technology that can allow NRTC members to analyze broadband availability in their own service areas.