Mapping Our Way to Ubiquitous Broadband

Bowling Green, Ky (October 6, 2020) – Often, when you think about the Digital Divide, you think about the people – the students, the employers and others unable to do vital and necessary tasks from their homes during a global pandemic because they lack access to the internet. Here on the Connected Nation Policy and Government Affairs team, we also think about those people – but we also think about the data and maps that can connect them.

The unfortunate reality is that there is no national database of reliable and granular data showing where broadband is and is not. Until we can see clearly where people are lacking access, we can’t fix it. As FCC Commissioner Rosenworcel once said, “we cannot manage what we do not measure. If we don’t have proper maps, we will not be able to target policy solutions effectively.” 

This issue of accurate and granular broadband mapping has become a top priority for our entire team for these very reasons. To help communities, we have led numerous initiatives in states looking to take mapping and data in to their own hands. We’ve mapped and validated thousands of rural miles, worked with service providers to understand their coverage footprints, and provided visualization of broadband access at address levels of detail. To make these types of services ubiquitous, however, Connected Nation has broadly supported federal initiatives that will revamp the FCC’s current Form 477 process by which providers submit their data – a process which is flawed and lacks accuracy. And that flawed process may soon change.

In July, the FCC passed a Third Report and Order paving the way for Form 477 modernization and more accurate and granular broadband maps. With details still to be worked out on exactly how this new “Digital Opportunity Data Collection” will work, rural areas can eventually hope to get accurate representation of their broadband connectivity, telling policymakers the true story of the millions of Americans who are left on the wrong side of the Digital Divide.

In a pandemic, more than ever, access is life, and as we say “everyone belongs in a Connected Nation.”

About the Author: Lindsay Conrad is the Connected Nation Director of Public Policy. She monitors all current and forecasted federal and state broadband public policy legislation and initiatives. In this role, she develops recommendations on the strategic direction and development of Connected Nation policy studies and messaging to stakeholders while supporting and guiding Connected Nation’s broadband planning, research, and policy agendas. Contact Lindsay at lconrad@connectednation.org.

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