Doyle Previews Broadband Mapping Markup

— The House Energy and Commerce telecom subcommittee will soon move to mark up legislation to improve the government’s mapping of broadband data, which lawmakers have long complained is riddled with errors. And the panel will likely use the Broadband DATA Act, H.R. 4229, from Rep. Dave Loebsack (D-Iowa), as the base. “I think the Loebsack bill will be the vehicle it runs through,” subcommittee chairman Mike Doyle (D-Pa.) told reporters this week. “But I think we’re going to be taking bits and pieces of the other bills, too.”

— Taking out the ‘garbage’: “We can’t have a system at the FCC when it comes to mapping where it’s garbage in and garbage out, because that’s what it is,” Loebsack said. Ohio Rep. Bob Latta , the top Republican on Doyle’s panel and a backer of the Broadband DATA Act, said, “This is something we can get done.”

Source: POLITICO Morning Tech

Make policy on bad maps is not good policymaking.  Good maps are essential to good governance, and it is time for the FCC to step up to the challenge.

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FCC Allocates $2.1 Million to Improve Broadband Access in Nevada County

The Union has a lack of details:

A county desiring better internet access just caught a break.

In an effort to “close the digital divide in rural America” the Federal Communications Commission announced it will be allocating $2.1 million to Nevada County to build broadband internet, according to a Thursday press release by the commission.

The commission authorized over $50 million in funding over the next decade to support internet access for 21,000 unserved California businesses and homes.

The broadband targets 2,321 locations in Nevada County that don’t have access, and gives providers Cal.net and Viasat three years to complete 40 percent of the project. Each subsequent year, “build out must increase by 20 percent” until the project is completed by the end of the sixth year.

But Nevada County’s chief information officer believes the project’s completion will only take a year or two.

“I’m happy to see monies being released coming into our county,” said Steve Monaghan. “Every dollar helps.”

Continue Reading HERE

Shannon Schroter in the comments asked an important question:

What technology will this ‘broadband internet’ network rollout be using? Copper wire, telephone lines, fiber optics, existing 4G, new 5G towers? This article doesn’t say.

According to the auction documents Cal.Net is using fixed wireless technology.

Cal.net, Inc., is receiving over $50.5 million over 10 years to deploy service to 20,859 homes and businesses in California, most of which will get access to service delivering speeds of at least 100 Mbps downstream/20 Mbps upstream, using fixed wireless technology.

The article mentions Viasat but they are not listed as one of the current winners in Attachment A of the FCC announcement.

Previous wins for Viasat was for High Latency connections, not the high-speed connections provided by fixed wireless technology.

Latest National Broadband Data From FCC Finds Median U.S. Internet Speed of 60 Mbps

Telecompetitor has the story

The median U.S. internet speed was 60 Mbps downstream and 5 Mbps upstream as of December 31, 2017, according to a report released this month from the FCC. More than two-thirds of internet customers (69%) subscribe to service at speeds of at least 25 Mbps, including 37.5% who subscribe to service at speeds of at least 100 Mbps, the commission said.

The December 2017 data apparently was the most recent available when the FCC did its analysis, which is summarized in the report titled “Internet Access Services: Status as of December 31, 2017.” The data is obtained from FCC Form 477 data.

Median U.S. Internet Speed

The percentage of customers taking higher speed service has been steadily increasing in recent years. As of December 2014, only 44% of customers subscribed to service at speeds of at least 25 Mbps, of which only 9.5% subscribed to service at speeds of 100 Mbps or higher.

Conversely, the percentage of customers taking the lowest speed services has been decreasing. As of December 2017, only 2.8% of internet customers subscribed to service providing speeds of less than 3 Mbps, down from 7.9% in December 2014.

Continue reading HERE.

How is your speed?  My download is about the median of 60Mbps, with a 10Mbps upload speed.  I am paying for 250 Mbps down and only getting 60 Mbps, with some occasional 150-175 Mbps sprints.  When I was buying 1Gig down, the median was about 440Mbps. It is rare to get what you pay for when the contract reads “up to 250Mbps” never stating a specific benchmark to measure against.

 

In South Dakota Today (09-05-19)

SOUTH DAKOTA FIELD TRIP — Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) is today convening a Senate Commerce telecom subcommittee field hearing in Sioux Falls to discuss the best ways to expand broadband connectivity to rural communities. Expect plenty of talk about the benefits of internet access, with representatives from local broadband and telemedicine providers, wireless tower builders and university officials as well as Republican FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr, the agency’s point person on 5G wireless matters. (He’s been traveling South Dakota since Tuesday).

Source: POLITICO Morning Tech

 

RCRC: Rural Broadband Update

Rural Broadband Update

A USTelecom pilot test found 38 percent of rural areas in census blocks depicted to have broadband on the National Broadband Map lack access to a basic internet connection.  The organization conducted the test following allegations that the broadband map drastically overestimated broadband availability in rural America.  The pilot test focused on Virginia and Missouri, but the study is sure to inspire calls for a nationwide test of broadband data.

The pilot test from USTelecom provides further evidence that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has relied on inaccurate data to measure broadband connectivity in rural areas.  Inaccurate mapping data prevents policymakers from prioritizing funds for areas that are truly most lacking in high-speed internet.  More reliable coverage data would help the FCC and other agencies properly devote public votes towards closing the digital divide for underserved rural areas.

RCRC: Rural Broadband Mapping

A few weeks ago, Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Ajit Pai sent letters to members of the House and Senate who raised concerns about the accuracy of the broadband mapping used by the FCC to measure households with access to broadband internet.  Chairman Pai wrote to inform the members that the FCC would implement a new order that would “result in more granular and more accurate broadband maps” through the creation of the Digital Opportunity Data Collection (DODC).

The DODC will require broadband providers to report areas they offer service below the census block level.  This reported data will then be independently verified by the Universal Service Administrative Company.  The DODC approach will be used by the FCC to administer $20 billion over the next ten years to rural broadband deployment through the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund.

FCC Chairman Pai addressed his letter to members from rural states and districts who will be scrutinizing the FCC’s new method for broadband mapping closely.  While the DODC is a much needed step in the right direction for broadband mapping, the data collection process remains overly reliant on data from nationwide carriers.  It will be critical for the future of rural broadband deployment to measure the success of the DODC program and hold the FCC accountable.

The best of good intentions often go arie, and this is just another opportunity for the government to screw up.  Yes, hold the FCC accountable, do your own speed testing and report the results.  If you do not have a broadband connection report the failure of the local providers to support your needs for 21st Century Communications directly to the DODC.

RCRC: Barbed Wire Broadband Update

FCC Proposes “Rural Digital Opportunity Fund” Program

On August 1, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) held an Open Commission Meeting where commissioners considered multiple issues that could impact the deployment of broadband internet in rural California. During the meeting, Commissioners proposed a new program to invest in rural broadband projects entitled the “Rural Digital Opportunity Fund.”

The Rural Digital Fund (the Fund) would invest $20.4 billion to expand broadband in rural areas without adequate internet access. The proposal would raise the bar for rural broadband deployment by making more areas eligible for support and requiring faster service than the Connect America Fund (CAF) Phase II reverse auction. In a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, the FCC seeks comment on continuing the expansion of broadband where it’s lacking by using an efficient reverse auction that builds on the success of the CAF Phase II auction. The Fund would focus on areas currently served by “price cap” carriers, along with areas that were not won in the CAF Phase II auction and other areas that do not currently receive any high-cost universal service support. The official Notice of Proposed Rulemaking requests comment on the following policy proposals for the new fund:

• Make eligible for support any price cap area currently receiving CAF Phase II model-based support but lacking broadband at speeds of 25 Megabits per second (Mbps) downstream, 3 Mbps upstream, as well as the areas un-awarded in the CAF Phase II auction.

• Make additional homes and businesses eligible for support by including areas that remain unserved, despite previous expectations that they would be served without subsidies due to estimated lower costs.

• Raise the standard for broadband deployment from the CAF’s 10 Mbps/1 Mbps minimum to at least 25 Mbps/3 Mbps, with incentives for faster speeds.
• Allocate support through a multi-round reverse auction like that used in last year’s CAF Phase II auction. In that auction, competition reduced the cost of reaching over 700,000 unserved homes and businesses from the $5 billion auction reserve price to $1.488 billion.

• Implement a two-phase approach: 1) In Phase I, target wholly unserved census blocks, using an existing FCC data collection 2) In Phase II, target unserved locations in partially unserved census blocks, using new, more granular data being developed through the Digital Opportunity Data Collection, along with areas not won in Phase I.
• Set a budget of $20.4 billion in high-cost universal service support, making available at least $16 billion for Phase I and the remainder available for Phase II. Both phases would have 10-year support terms.
• Adopt technology-neutral standards, opening the auction to all types of providers that can meet program standards.
• Ensure a smooth transition of support from existing providers to auction winners.
• Include measures to require accountability to ensure that funding is used wisely to expand broadband deployment.

Broadband Mapping Update

In order to identify geographic areas that lack adequate broadband access, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is instituting a new process for collecting fixed broadband data. This proposal would reform the FCC’s broadband deployment data collection rules, and improve the accuracy of the National Broadband Map overseen by the National Telecommunications Information Agency (NTIA).

The order established a new collection process known as the Digital Opportunity Data Collection which require mobile and landline service providers to submit detailed coverage maps to show specific areas they serve at the census block level. The order was praised by third parties such as Microsoft, a leading voice from the private sector to improve broadband coverage data, while acknowledging the order is only a step in the right direction. In general, the order is expected to increase the granularity of the data shared by service providers which should lead to more accurate coverage information.

Presidential Candidates Release Broadband Plans

Democratic candidates for the 2020 presidential elections are pitching themselves to rural America this week during their campaign tours across the State of Iowa. Some candidates are seizing this opportunity to launch their rural policy platforms and appeal to rural voters.

On Wednesday, Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Massachusetts) announced her plan to deliver high speed broadband coverage to rural areas. As part of her policy platform for rural America, Senator Warren proposed the creation of a new Department of Economic Development which would oversee an $85 billion federal broadband grant program that would provide funding to electricity and telecommunications co-ops, nonprofits, tribes, and local governments. Nationwide carriers would not be eligible for funding.

In her rural platform launch, Senator Warren also said she would back federal legislation that would authorize local governments to construct their own broadband networks. Municipal-owned networks are outlawed in 26 states, including California, but Senator Warren suggested as president she would support federal legislation to lift these bands and authorize municipal broadband networks nationwide.

Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-New York) published her plan for rural America called “Rebuilding Rural America to Build Our Future,” which would create a $50 billion fund within the U.S. Department of Agriculture to distribute block grants to rural communities for infrastructure, public assistance, and economic development programs. In addition, Senator Gillibrand promised her administration would spend $60 billion to deliver high-speed internet access in rural areas.

Microsoft Disputes FCC’s Broadband Availability Data

Microsoft is challenging the Federal Communications Committee’s (FCC) recent broadband-availability reports. According to Microsoft, the FCC’s data overstates the extent to which broadband is actually available throughout the nation. The FCC currently defines broadband as 25 Mbps down and 3 Mbps up. In some areas, however, Microsoft asserts that not all households have access to this standard.

Microsoft has build an interactive tools to demonstrate their findings. Here is one example:

Screen Shot 2019-08-06 at 10.34.14 AM

Select your county at the link and see the results HERE. Scroll down the page to the interactive map.  The FCC disputes these findings in their Order to validate the Nations broadband maps.  More details in FCC Order FCCCIRC 1908-02 which Establishes the Digital Opportunity Data Collection system at this LINK.

 

 

FCC Seeks Crowdsourcing Validation of Broadband Maps

FCC Order FCCCIRC 1908-02 Establishes the Digital Opportunity Data Collection system

From the Fact Sheet:

What the Report and Order Would Do:

• Establish the Digital Opportunity Data Collection—a new data collection that will collect geospatial broadband coverage maps from Internet service providers, specifically aimed at advancing the Commission’s universal service goals;

• Adopt a process to collect public input, commonly known as “crowdsourcing,” on the accuracy of service providers’ broadband maps; and

• Make targeted changes to the existing Form 477 data collection to reduce reporting burdens for all filers and modify the collection to incorporate new technologies.

In 2012 the Gold County Broadband Consortia (GCBC) established a crowdsourcing method for validating the California Broadband Maps. The CA maps used the same census block techniques as the FCC Broadband maps which left significant gaps in the real-world coverage.

The Gold County Broadband Consortia collected broadband survey forms at the Nevada County Fair. Plotting the information gathered at the Fair using Arc/GIS online revealed some significant gaps in the California Broadband Maps.

nevada-county-fair-sample
Filled circles =>6MHz down, red circles <6MHz down, light blue circles unserved.

The GCBC worked with the California Public Utilities Commission staff to come up with a standard form which could be handed out at community meetings. The purpose of collecting more field level information on actual broadband coverage in the GCBC areas of responsibility, Sierra, Nevada, Placer, El Dorado Counties and eastern part of Alpine County. The form was eventually put online, producing a spreadsheet that with a little clean up could be forwarded directly to the CPUC for inclusion on the CA broadband maps. Sample online form is HERE, reproduced from the original on an earlier GCBC website.

The full FCC Order and Report can be downloaded HERE.

 

 

FCC fInally Orders ISPs to Say Exactly Where They Offer Broadband

ISPs will have to submit geospatial maps of broadband service areas.

Details at ArsTechnica:

The Federal Communications Commission voted today to collect more accurate data about which parts of the US have broadband and which parts lack high-speed connectivity. From now on, home Internet providers will have to give the FCC geospatial maps of where they provide service instead of merely reporting which census blocks they offer service in.

Continue reading HERE

When I was doing broadband mapping for SEDCorp/Gold County Broadband Consortia, I helped several small ISPs with mapping problems. Many ISPs only had Excel files of user addresses to produces geospatial maps of there coverage area. I used Arc/GIS Online to plot the coverage. This information was considered sensitive information and held very close, should competitors gain access. For small ISP a $2500 fee for Arc/GIS license can be a challenge unless other uses can are found for this geoprocessing software. However, a 21-day free trial is available. (Problem is a steep learning curve)

An alternative is QGIS. QGIS, also known as Quantum GIS, is a free and open-source cross-platform desktop geographic information system. QGIS supports viewing, editing, and analysis of geospatial data. I produced the 5G cell phone coverage plots (here) in QGIS. The problem for small ISPs is QGIS, and Arc/GIS have relatively long learning curves.

Consultants like Steve Blum (link in right column) and companies specializing in GIS systems could also be helpful. In my opinion, all the CPUC Broadband Consortia should have an Arc/GIS or QGIS package and be prepared to help their small ISPs map their coverage areas.