Improving Access to Rural Broadband

Access to broadband is basic infrastructure in today’s 21st Century economy, but for too many people, including many in rural Eastern Washington, it’s still not a reality. One of the main challenges we face is having accurate data about what areas have access and where we need to improve. In many rural areas, where there is no economic incentive for broadband providers to provide service, there is a role for the federal government to subsidize deployment. Programs at the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) distribute billions of dollars each year to deploy broadband in unserved and underserved areas. However, broadband mapping at the FCC is insufficiently accurate and granular, overstating coverage in many areas of the country.

Broadband Data Improvement Act of 2019

That’s why I introduced the Broadband Data Improvement Act of 2019 on June 5, 2019, which 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. 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.

Learn more about the Broadband Data Improvement Act of 2019 here:

DOWNLOAD ONE-PAGER  DOWNLOAD BILL TEXT

In May, Cathy addressed this issue at a hearing of the Energy and Commerce Committee’s hearing titled, “Lift America: Modernizing our Infrastructure for the Future.” You can see her remarks and questioning of Mr. Daniel Lyons, visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), here:

 

Voices of Support for the Broadband Data Improvement Act

“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)
“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
“Kudos to Reps. McMorris Rodgers, O’Halleran, McKinley, Kuster, Wittman, and Butterfield for leading House efforts to improve broadband mapping and better identify the country’s unserved areas. This legislative framework, which includes a necessary challenge process, will hopefully pave the way for much more efficient broadband subsidies and help prevent wasteful government-funded overbuilding.” – FCC Commissioner Mike O’Rielly