Broadband Caucus Co-Chair To Push For Better Mapping

— Wittman (R-Va.), a new chair of the House Rural Broadband Caucus, is set to speak this morning at rural broadband trade group NTCA’s legislative and policy conference about the need to have better maps of broadband availability and stronger coordination among key agencies like the FCC and Commerce and Agriculture departments, according to an aide. He will also advocate for future-proofing telecom networks, with an eye toward building out more fiber (which can handle large volumes of data, including to push traffic to and from wireless cell sites) and simplifying the federal permitting process, the aide added.

Source: POLITICO Morning Tech

It looks to me we are going to talk about the mapping problem into oblivion. Everyone agrees it is a big problem, with no workable solutions. It is impossible to solve the lack of broadband by throwing money at it if you cannot find where to through the cash. The users without broadband know where the problem is, why does the government have such a difficult time finding a solution? Crowd Source the solution. Send everyone who reports ten addresses without broadband a $10.00 gift card. Each user requests broadband from one or more providers and sends the reply denying availability along with the address lists to the FCC to collect the gift card. Yes, there will be fraud attempts, and they should be prosecuted to the maximum as a deterrent. Do you have a better solution?

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Speaking of Broadband Mapping

Senate Commerce Chairman Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) teased a forthcoming bill addressing broadband mapping accuracy during Wednesday’s hearing on the topic. “Improving the nation’s broadband maps starts with better coordination and information sharing among federal agencies responsible for administering broadband deployment programs,” Wicker said, stressing the need for coordination among the FCC, NTIA and USDA. “I hope we will soon have legislation.” Existing broadband maps put out by the FCC have been broadly criticized as inaccurate.

Source: POLITICO Morning Tech with a new headline.

The State Of Our Maps

— Senate Commerce holds a hearing this morning on the steps needed to improve the accuracy of broadband mapping data, particularly in rural communities where the lack of reliable information has become a source of frustration for lawmakers on both sides of the aisle. Panel Chairman Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) has criticized the FCC’s handling of the issue and, six months ago, contemplated the use of a congressional spending bill to force the commission to revisit the problem. “Flawed and inaccurate maps ultimately waste resources and stifle opportunities for economic development in our rural and underserved communities,” Wicker said in an opening statement shared with MT.

— Witnesses include USTelecom President Jonathan Spalter, who is leading his own mapping initiative. (Charter Communications and Microsoft both outlined their own concerns with the mapping process and suggestions for improvement in blog posts this past week.)

Source: POLITICO Morning Tech

Microsoft Says the FCC ‘Overstates’ Broadband Availability in the US

Motherboard has the details:

Generally speaking, you can’t fix a problem you don’t fully understand. That’s particularly true of US broadband, where the government’s efforts to map the scope of the nation’s broadband coverage gaps have long been ridiculed as an inaccurate mess.

Microsoft this week was the latest to highlight the US government’s terrible broadband mapping in a filing with the FCC, first spotted by journalist Wendy Davis. In it, Microsoft accuses the FCC of over-stating actual broadband availability and urges the agency to do better.

“The Commission’s broadband availability data, which underpins FCC Form 477 and the Commission’s annual Section 706 report, appears to overstate the extent to which broadband is actually available throughout the nation,” Microsoft said in the filing.

“For example, in some areas the Commission’s broadband availability data suggests that ISPs have reported significant broadband availability (25 Mbps down/3 Mbps up) while Microsoft’s usage data indicates that only a small percentage of consumers actually access the Internet at broadband speeds in those areas,” Microsoft said.

Similar criticism has long plagued the agency. The FCC’s broadband data is received via the form 477 data collected from ISPs. But ISPs have a vested interest in over-stating broadband availability to obscure the sector’s competition problems, and the FCC historically hasn’t worked very hard to independently verify whether this data is truly accurate.

Continue reading the report HERE.

NTIA Partners with 8 States on Improvements to Broadband Availability Map

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

February 12, 2019
News Media Contact:
NTIA, Office of Public Affairs, (202) 482-7002, press@ntia.doc.gov
Today, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) announced that it is collaborating with eight states to broaden and update the national broadband availability map. The eight states – California, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, North Carolina, Tennessee, Utah, and West Virginia – will contribute data and other inputs to the map.

“In order to ensure that all Americans have access to broadband, we need a more precise picture of the current services and infrastructure that are available,” said David Redl, Assistant Secretary for Communications and Information and NTIA Administrator. “NTIA’s work on an updated map, in partnership with these initial states, will help policymakers around the country make better decisions as they devise broadband expansion plans.”

The Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2018 directed NTIA to update the national broadband availability map using its previously developed state partnerships. The initial eight state partners were chosen because they reflect geographic diversity, participate in NTIA’s State Broadband Leaders Network, have active state broadband plans or programs, and were willing to contribute data that can be combined with nationwide data sources to give policymakers a deeper understanding of broadband availability.

NTIA expects to seek participation from additional states, territories and federally recognized tribes that have broadband programs or related data-collection efforts. The initial map will include available nationwide data for every state combined with state-level data from the eight states.



California Public Utilities Commission has an active program to collect data from the field with the CalSpeed Program. They are looking for 500 volunteers to collect this vital data for improving the accuracy of the broadband maps. More details HERE and HERE.

Properly collected data at the user level is the gold standard for accurate broadband maps.

FCC Quibbles At Senate 5G Hearing

— Amid broader national security fears surrounding Chinese telecom giants, various senators also singled out the FCC with gripes during Senate Commerce’s hearing on 5G wireless on Wednesday. Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) called the agency too “chicken to do contribution reform” and force more people to pay into its telecom subsidy fund — currently only supported by landline customers. “It’s a shrinking pie,” Schatz said. “We want to win every race but don’t admit that this takes resources.”

— And Democrats weren’t the only ones with gripes with the agency. Sens. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) and Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) both raised concerns about the FCC’s maps of nationwide broadband availability, widely derided as inaccurate. “NTIA needs to take over this mapping responsibility and clean it up,” Blackburn said.

Source: POLITICO Morning Tech

Can You Hear Me Now? In Quest for Federal Money, States Debunk Providers’ Coverage Claims

Cellphone companies often boast about how much of the country they cover. But with billions of federal dollars at stake to expand mobile broadband in rural America, state officials and other groups across 37 states say those claims aren’t always true.

The challenge is proving the carriers wrong.

In Vermont, that meant sending out a guy in a gray Toyota Prius to imitate the ubiquitous “can you hear me now?” question as he motored among small towns and dairy farms in search of a signal. Other states took similar steps, and their concerns have caught the attention of the Federal Communications Commission, which has begun investigating the accuracy of the carriers’ claims.

The FCC got on to the question last year after it offered $4.5 billion through its Mobility Fund II reverse auction, meant to advance high-speed mobile broadband service in needy rural areas over the next decade. To determine which areas would be eligible for funding, the FCC required mobile providers to submit data showing where they provide 4G LTE coverage with download speeds of 5 megabits per second.

According to the carriers, several rural states, including Kansas and most of Vermont, New Hampshire and Mississippi, already had high-speed mobile broadband and didn’t need the FCC’s money.

Vermont begged to differ.

“When we first looked at the confidential coverage maps we called the FCC staff and said, ‘These maps are wrong,’” recalled Corey Chase, telecommunications infrastructure specialist with the Vermont Department of Public Service.

“The FCC said, ‘Well, if you don’t think they’re accurate, it would behoove you to do a challenge,’” he recalled. “It puts the onus on us.”

So, the department sent Chase on the road to challenge the carriers’ maps. With six phones in his passenger side seat running tests, and a seventh used as a map, Chase covered the Green Mountain State’s forested and at times rocky terrain to gather the data that would provide a foundation for an accurate statewide mobile broadband map.

Read the rest of the article HERE.

The CPUC has a mobile coverage data collection plan call CalSPEED. More Details HERE.