Some Say: “This Is Not the Map You’re Looking For”

Randy Sukow


Broadband Mapping

The Biden Administration painted a red and depressing picture of broadband availability throughout the United States last week with its new National Broadband Data Availability Map. Online news service Axios this week gathered some reaction to the map from the two industry sectors that provide the majority of broadband connections – telecommunication companies and cable TV providers. In their view, the American public still has some time to wait for a truly accurate representation.

The Axios item quotes a statement from the NCTA – The Internet & Television Association that the Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) “has obscured, rather than clarified, the true state of broadband with this mashup of disparate, and often inaccurate, data sources.” The NTIA map combines FCC data, which has long been criticized as inaccurate, with online speed test data from private sources.

USTelecom told Axios, “The administration itself acknowledged this map is not authoritative, instead suggesting it is meant to let users compare existing coverage estimates. So, we should take that at face value.”

Both NCTA and USTelecom advised waiting for the FCC’s expected new maps featuring shape file data rather than data from FCC Form 477 surveys. “We’re glad the NTIA is out with this version of a map, but it’s not a substitute for the FCC’s more accurate and granular approach which will identity every home and business in America and whether or not it has broadband,” Axios quoted USTelecom CEO Jonathan Spalter as saying.

With more accurate maps, the Commission plans to go forward with planned programs to further fund broadband network construction. However, it is unclear when the maps will be available.

Congress approved funding to develop the maps late last year and in February acting FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel created a Broadband Data Task Force, an interdisciplinary group within the Commission to manage data gathering for maps. However, in the four months since that announcement, there has been no public meetings nor announcements of the task force’s progress.

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