The FCC Finally Starts Taking America's Shitty Broadband Maps More Seriously

from the about-time dept

For a country that likes to talk about "being number one" a lot, that's sure not reflected in the United States' broadband networks, or the broadband maps we use to determine which areas lack adequate broadband or competition (resulting in high prices and poor service). Our terrible broadband maps are, of course, a feature not a bug. ISPs have routinely lobbied to kill any efforts to improve data collection and analysis, lest somebody actually realize the telecom market is a broken mono/duopoly whose dysfunction reaches into every aspect of tech.

While these shaky maps have been the norm for several decades, recent, bipartisan pressure by states (upset that they're not getting their share of taxpayer subsidies because we don't actually know where broadband is) has finally forced even the Ajit Pai FCC to take some modest action.

Previously, the form 477 data provided by ISPs let them declare an entire census block "served" with broadband if they provided broadband to just one home in that census block. After years of complaints, that is finally changing with a new FCC rule change that will require that ISPs provide geospatial maps of where they actually offer service for the first time in history:

"We require all fixed providers to submit broadband coverage polygons depicting the areas where they actually have broadband-capable networks and make fixed broadband service available to end-user locations. The filings must reflect the maximum download and upload speeds actually made available in each area, the technology used to provide the service, and a differentiation between residential-only, business-only, or residential-and-business broadband services. Fixed providers in the new collection must submit a broadband coverage polygon for each combination of download speed, upload speed, and technology."

The FCC has suggested it's also going to begin including some crowd-sourced data to confirm accuracy of the data ISPs provide, instead of just blindly trusting the industry at its word. Note that these changes only apply to fixed line broadband providers and not cellular providers, currently under investigation for also routinely lying about their wireless broadband coverage maps.

While the political pressure has finally forced industry-friendly Pai to act, there's still plenty of issues remaining. For example the FCC still refuses to publicize the pricing data ISPs provide the FCC, because the industry claims that data will only benefit competitors. Of course the real reason they don't want that data publicized is it would only further emphasize that Americans pay some of the highest prices for data in the developed world thanks to cable broadband monopolies across huge swaths of the US.

The other problem is one of accountability. Pai has yet to hold giant ISPs accountable on any issue of substance, so whether his FCC would actually punish ISPs that don't comply remains an open question. The entire proposal also shovels off much of the heavy lifting to the Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC), an agency that has never managed an effort of this scale before. So while it's great to see the Pai FCC take steps to improve a longstanding sore spot in American broadband, it might be wise to avoid popping the bubbly until we see if the proposal is correctly applied and enforced.

Filed Under: broadband, fcc


Reader Comments

Subscribe: RSS

View by: Time | Thread


  • identicon
    Iggy, 6 Aug 2019 @ 9:40am

    Watch the FCC start taking consumer rights seriously towards the end of Trumps presidency. Tom Wheeler got around to moving on zero rating towards the end of Obama's presidency when it was too late to do anything.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Samuel Abram (profile), 6 Aug 2019 @ 10:19am

    I doubt Pai will do anything

    I sincerely doubt Ajit Pai will do anything. After all, this is Ajit Pai we're talking about. As in, Ajit "LALALALALA I CAN'T HEAR YOU" Pai. I'll believe it when I see it.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    ECA (profile), 6 Aug 2019 @ 11:54am

    I wonder..

    Facts are kinda sketchy..
    But it would be interesting to find that All the Cell towers have Fiber to them..THE GOOD STUFF..
    Because Copper isnt going to do very well in a major metro area..
    They want 1 tower to Cover everything. and you have 1 million people working in buildings Downtown.. could you see Antenna's on every building Connected to the Metal frames so they can get A signal?? Its all sent to a few towers in the area to cover everyone..as much as possible.

    And anyone know what happened about the long lost Law about Sending and receiving calls, and WHO PAYS for them??
    It was/is interesting that the Caller PAYS in the old days, and back in the 90's they were having fun with Cellphones, being charge PER MIN, on both sides.. AND ITS STILL HERE..

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    TwiztidJuggla420 (profile), 6 Aug 2019 @ 2:05pm

    No Deadline

    There was no mention of a deadline to have new map data by. Left up to the ISPS it will be several years, at earliest, before they publish any new map data. Ajit Pai is one of the most obvious bought puppets in government. He doesn't even try to deny or hide it at all. He has literally stated he doesn't care about public opinion mass majority. Just keep sipping your giant Reece's mug with your earplugs in, scumbag.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Coyne Tibbets (profile), 6 Aug 2019 @ 8:49pm

    Promoting big providers?

    "All fixed providers," huh? To me, this looks like nothing more than a way to get rid of small providers, who will have trouble supporting the level of detail required. They will have to buy this expensive software, which will be pocket change for big providers...

    But, apparently, in our enthusiasm, we didn't notice that.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Kevin Hayden, 7 Aug 2019 @ 9:27am

    FCC should be careful what it wishes for!

    So what happens when these new (correct) maps show that broadband availability has decreased substantially since the last few sets were published? Maybe everyone should point fingers at the recent repeal of Net Neutrality as the cause. Would be fun to see how Pai and the ISPs spin that one!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here



Subscribe to the Techdirt Daily newsletter




Comment Options:

  • Use markdown. Use plain text.
  • Remember name/email/url (set a cookie)

Close

Add A Reply

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here



Subscribe to the Techdirt Daily newsletter




Comment Options:

  • Use markdown. Use plain text.
  • Remember name/email/url (set a cookie)

Follow Techdirt
Special Affiliate Offer

Advertisement
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Essential Reading
Techdirt Deals
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Techdirt Insider Chat
Advertisement
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Recent Stories
Advertisement
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads

Close

Email This

This feature is only available to registered users. Register or sign in to use it.