Just two months ago, the FCC finished a massive revamp of its broadband mapping efforts, which pledged to more accurately detail the digital divide and how communities in America are underserved by big telecom companies.
However, the efforts are already facing sharp criticism from senators.
For years, the FCC’s broadband maps were understood to be wildly inaccurate, taking the word of big telecom companies about the services they provided, and using outdated measurements to map coverage and speed.
The new effort instituted more stringent metrics that were supposed to reflect the reality of service on the ground and not hypothetical projections by telecom companies. But two months in, there’s concern the new maps aren’t all that much better.
In a letter to the FCC, Sen. Jackie Rosen (D-Nev.) and Sen. Catherine Cortez-Masto (D-Nev.) said they found at least 20,000 locations that were overstating coverage in their state alone, calling the maps a source of “significant disappointment and displeasure.”
“Despite a clear mandate from Congress, the draft maps are deeply flawed … These clear discrepancies may result in our state losing millions of dollars in federal funding through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law that are critical to ensuring we are providing essential broadband service to Nevadans, as well as limiting the areas [the Nevada Office of Science, Innovation & Technology] can invest federal dollars.”
Describing the concerns, the senators said they found “incorrect information on the quality of service available to some locations and in some cases, missing serviceable locations.”
The maps will be used to allocate a massive new spend on broadband infrastructure as part of both COVID-19 relief funds and President Joe Biden’s big infrastructure bill. But big telecom companies are fighting to block the funding, which can go to smaller competitors and undercut their monopolies.
The new maps have a big improvement over the old ones, namely the right to challenge the data. That’s what the senators from Nevada are doing, but even that process is riddled with flaws, as the Daily Dot previously reported.
States and citizens are expected to raise issues with the data. But a number of states don’t have the kind of broadband oversight that larger states do. And the FCC, the senators feel, is offloading the work to citizens.
“In addition,” the senators said, “our State Broadband Office has concerns with the current challenge process, through which states can challenge the draft maps, as it is based on assumptions that put the onus on consumers to proactively engage with providers, rather than practical access to high-speed internet for consumers or technological realities.”
The FCC’s challenge site is currently up and available to use here.