Senate’s internet access plan rests on better broadband maps

The maps have been a priority for the acting FCC chairwoman, Jessica Rosenworcel, who formed a Broadband Data Task Force after taking control of the agency. The agency recently awarded a contract for the development of its broadband data collection system, which will gather location-specific data on 3G, 4G LTE, and 5G signal availability.

The commission also adopted regulations that will require internet service providers to submit more granular and standardized data. The regulations, which have not been implemented yet, will also allow state and local governments and other third-party entities to challenge private-sector data, which has proven imprecise in the past.

“The FCC is moving as quickly as possible to be able to collect the data that we need to create better broadband maps,” FCC spokesperson Anne Veigle said in a statement. “Fixed broadband service will be reported on a location-by-location basis, and mobile broadband availability will be based on standardized parameters that will permit apples-to-apples comparisons of providers’ networks.”

But the sheer scale of the project means better maps could still be far off, experts say.

“The FCC is a deliberative federal agency, so it’s moving slowly,” said Christopher Ali, an associate professor of media studies at the University of Virginia. “I think their heart is in the right place in terms of wanting to produce the best maps. But it’s probably going to take another two years.”

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