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Broadband Access: A Note on Availability Data

[one-half-first]Broadband providers are required to file with the FCC a list of census blocks covered by their services twice annually, known as the Form 477 process. Under this current census block methodology, if even one household in a given block is served, the entire block is marked as having service. In rural areas, these blocks can be extremely large, increasing the likelihood of overstatement of service in the very areas that need help the most. For example, nationally, there are more than 3,200 census blocks that are larger than the entire District of Columbia (68 square miles in area) and five blocks that are larger than the entire state of Connecticut (5,567 square miles in area). Secondly, broadband providers that do not have GIS (geographic information system) capabilities are not able to visualize the spreadsheet-based file of census block IDs being filed through the FCC’s Form 477 process to ensure accuracy, resulting in overstated and/or understated coverage reporting. Thirdly, some providers are simply missing from the Form 477 dataset entirely. Lastly, fixed wireless coverage is also reported as full census blocks, instead of service areas developed from propagation modeling, as was produced during NTIA’s State Broadband Initiative program (2010-2014). The FCC continues the problematic use of census blocks as the unit of measure for reporting, and thus accepts the well-established and inherent overstatement and understatement that such reporting yields.[/one-half-first]
[one-half]Connect Michigan works to mitigate the census block issue in Michigan by working directly with broadband providers to help refine their coverage areas and offer them an opportunity to provide more detailed information on the infrastructure availability. Connect Michigan employs a confidence methodology to identify areas that are likely to be overstated and attempt to work with providers in those areas to refine their coverage areas. However, there is no requirement for broadband providers to offer more granular data. Some broadband providers in Michigan are more willing than others to offer more granular data or refine their coverage areas. Data displayed in map form and as tabular data is developed from a combination of direct provider outreach and data collection, FCC Form 477 filings, State Broadband Initiative datasets, and independent research conducted by Connect Michigan. As such, broadband availability at an exact address location cannot be guaranteed, and the aggregate household availability statistics are estimates made using the most up-to-date and accurate information as is available.[/one-half]