How important is mapping our current state of broadband across this country? Important enough to see congressional delegations sending letters to the FCC imploring the Commission to ensure there is accuracy in the collection of voice and broadband service and deployment data to tell the story of where resources should be put moving forward.
North Dakota and Kansas have led with full delegation letters expressing concern that the FCC’s current broadband availability maps, particularly when they come to showing fixed broadband access, do not utilize data that is granular enough to really depict where broadband is available in rural communities. They particularly take note of the fact that Form 477 data collection policies dictate that an entire census block be considered served with broadband service even if that service is only offered to one location within the census block. That challenge is exacerbated by the fact that census blocks in rural communities are larger than those in urban area by simple math – fewer folks in a larger plot of land. That means that a bigger hurdle to partake in some existing programs for support and will be of particular interest to rural broadband providers when new broadband funding initiatives like the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (which I still default to calling CAF 3) roll out.
Thankfully, Congressional leaders are following this issue closely and while there is no perfect answer, NTCA filed last week a letter with the FCC to support weaving a path forward on the mapping challenge with both a near term and end game approach. There is too much at stake in the short run to wait for the art of the perfect and all the right reasons to look for a more data driven, future proofed solution for the long run.