McMorris Rodgers, O’Halleran Introduce Bipartisan Legislation to Improve Broadband Mapping in Rural Communities

WASHINGTON, D.C. (June 6, 2019) – Today, Eastern Washington Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) and Rep. Tom O’Halleran (D-AZ) introduced the Broadband Data Improvement Act of 2019 alongside Reps. G.K. Butterfield (D-NC), Ann Kuster (D-NH), David McKinley (R-WV), and Rob Wittman (R-VA), bipartisan legislation to improve the broadband mapping process nationwide to accurately reflect coverage levels in rural areas.

“Access to broadband is basic infrastructure in our 21st Century economy, but for too many people, including many in rural Eastern Washington, it’s still not a reality,” said McMorris Rodgers. “One of the main challenges we face is having accurate data about what areas have access and where we need to improve. This legislation will revamp the broadband mapping process so that federal agencies and private industry are able to target improvements to the areas that need it most and finally bridge the digital divide in rural communities.”

“In the most rural parts of our country, millions of Americans lack access to reliable broadband. This puts communities at a significant disadvantage and prevents them from unlocking the potential of online learning, telehealth, and connectivity in our 21st century economy. It is important that we close the digital divide to ensure these communities can thrive, but to do that we need to update the National Broadband Map” O’Halleran said. “I am proud to join my colleagues to introduce bipartisan legislation to ensure we are collecting accurate coverage data and allocating funds to the underserved areas that need the resources.”

“Common sense strategies to improve our broadband maps will help us connect America to the digital age and more efficiently use government resources. The Broadband Data Improvement Act of 2019 would move away from the current census block approach to one that utilizes shapefiles plus crowdsourcing, therefore better identifying the served and unserved areas so the FCC can quickly make mapping improvements. We applaud Reps. Cathy McMorris Rodgers and Tom O’Halleran for introducing this bipartisan legislation and look forward to working with the committee, the FCC and all stakeholders on improving our national broadband map.” – NCTA, the Internet and Television Association

“The Broadband Data Improvement Act of 2019 is a great step forward on the important issue of broadband connectivity. To help close the broadband gap, we need better data to enable better decisions. Measures that improve the granularity, collection and oversight of data, which are included in this bill, will improve our understanding and allow us to invest in the future of the country. We applaud Representatives McMorris Rodgers and O’Halleran as they continue to lead on this issue and look forward to working with Congress towards our shared goal of providing better connectivity for all Americans.” – John Kahan, chief data analytics officer for Microsoft Corporation

“For far too long, imprecise broadband availability maps have frustrated unserved rural consumers and undermined the effectiveness of programs that would otherwise help in delivering services to them. The kinds of steps outlined in the Broadband Data Improvement Act of 2019—more granular reporting, better standards for reporting, and robust validation and challenge procedures—represent a critical combination of measures to improve broadband mapping. Of course, these measures all must be seen as part of an ongoing conversation, but they represent significant building blocks for steps to follow. NTCA-The Rural Broadband Association thanks Representatives McMorris Rodgers and O’Halleran for their continued support.” – NTCA, the Rural Broadband Association, CEO Shirley Bloomfield

“The American Farm Bureau Federation supports this bipartisan bill to improve broadband data collection. Broadband is no longer a luxury. It’s a necessity. With limited funding and an overabundance of need, it is critical for federal programs to use accurate broadband maps to target and distribute its funding. Farm Bureau applauds Reps. O’Halleran, McMorris Rodgers and their colleagues for their leadership on this vital issue and we will work with them in favor of swift consideration of this measure.” – Zippy Duvall, President of the American Farm Bureau Federation

“Accurate broadband coverage maps are a missing ingredient in the pursuit to make rural broadband access a reality. By emphasizing the need for better broadband coverage data, this proposal will provide a much-needed look at the true scope of the digital divide. Expanded broadband access is key to the success of rural communities, and we welcome this proposal’s introduction in the U.S. House and thank Congressman O’Halleran and Congresswoman McMorris Rodgers for their leadership.” – Jeffrey Connor, COO of the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA)

NOTE: The Broadband Data Improvement Act of 2019 (BDIA) requires broadband providers to report data to create an improved National Broadband Map that is significantly more accurate and granular, and subject to an ongoing and multi-faceted challenge, validation, and refinement process. Specifically, the bill improves the mapping process in the following ways:

  • Granular Service Availability Data – Requires broadband providers to report service availability by submitting GIS shapefiles that indicate actual network coverage completely updating or replacing the current Form 477 process.
  • Three-pronged Data Validation Process –
    • The collection of public feedback regarding the accuracy of the map, obtained via a new feedback tool that will be integrated into the online mapping platform.
    • The acquisition of third-party commercial datasets on broadband availability that are analyzed and compared against provider-reported data.
    • Targeted on-the-ground field validation of services in areas where public feedback and third-party data suggest the map is incorrect.
  • Periodic Challenge Process – Requires the establishment of an ongoing, efficient, and scheduled process by which the public at large and broadband service providers may challenge the map, and through which the FCC analyzes and resolves any challenges to update the map accordingly.
  • Federal Funding Programs Guidance and Broadband Investments Tracking – Requires the National Broadband Map to be utilized by Federal agencies to identify areas that remain unserved and track where awarded funds have actually resulted in broadband buildout.
  • Data Submission Assistance to Small Providers – Minimizes the burden on smaller service providers that may not have GIS capabilities by providing data submission assistance to ensure that the information they report is as accurate as possible.

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