The US Senate on Tuesday unanimously passed the Broadband Deployment Accuracy and Technological Availability (Broadband DATA) Act, an initiative that aims to push the FCC to fix outdated broadband maps illustrating where data services are available, and where they are still lacking.
Companion legislation passed the House on March 3. It now heads to President Trump for his signature.
If it all comes to pass, the legislation will require the FCC to issue rules relating to the collection of data with respect to the availability of broadband services, and improve upon the accuracy of how that data is collected.
More specifically, the FCC will be tasked with issuing final rules no later than 180 days after the date of the Act's enactment related to the availability of terrestrial, fixed, fixed wireless, satellite and mobile broadband Internet service, and allow for the collection by the FCC of granular data toward the building of accurate broadband coverage maps.
The FCC would also be required to work with experts in the GIS (geographic information systems) arena to help create a common dataset of all locations in the US where fixed broadband Internet service can be installed. The FCC will also be tasked with collecting data from various service providers that gives the agency a full understanding of where "standard" broadband installations can occur, and info related to the download and upload speeds that are being offered by those ISPs.
Several US organizations praised Tuesday's vote and urged President Trump to sign it.
"We welcome Congress' action in passing legislation that will improve our national broadband maps and enable policymakers to better target scarce resources to areas that currently lack broadband service," the NCTA – The Internet & Television Association, said in a statement. "In particular, we commend Congress' ratification of the FCC's decision to use 'shapefile' data that will better reflect provider service areas and will result in more accurate broadband maps."
"The House and now the Senate have both decisively acted to transform the country's outdated broadband maps to get a clearer picture of who has – and who still lacks – access to broadband, the 21st century's indispensable resource," Jonathan Spalter, president and CEO of USTelecom, said in a statement. "Soon enough future federal broadband spending in rural America will finally be based on the most accurate and granular map we've ever had."
In August 2019, USTelecom released results of a mapping pilot program finding that as many as 38% of rural locations in census blocks reported as "served" with legacy FCC Form 477-based studies are actually unserved by any pilot participants.
— Jeff Baumgartner, Senior Editor, Light Reading, special to Broadband World News