FCC’s Latest Broadband Maps Aim to Turn Up Heat on ISPs

The Federal Communications Commission has unveiled a draft of its long-awaited broadband maps, which detail broadband availability across the country. “The maps will only get better from here,” FCC chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel said, emphasizing that even in this early form they are a lot better than what had been available. The new maps integrate information from broadband providers with hundreds of location-specific data sources, providing an accurate-to-the-home picture of fixed and mobile broadband availability. Users now have “a one-stop-shop” to search their address and find the Internet service providers available to that location.

In addition to finding companies claiming to offer service in a specified geographic location, technical specs such as maximum download and upload speeds will also be made available through the new FCC maps. Previous maps “failed to paint the whole picture,” relying on data at the “census block level,” Rosenworcel’s blog post notes.

“The FCC has finally put the first ‘pre-production draft’ version of its new interactive broadband maps up on the web, and they’re absolutely better in one way — they no longer automatically assume you’re covered just because a single home somewhere in your census tract got Internet,” blasts The Verge.

In addition to helping potential subscribers make informed choices regarding broadband service, the new maps will “theoretically add ‘market pressures’ to Internet providers who may have considered an area served if just one home in a census block was connected. Now, they may be compelled to flesh out coverage in a town or neighborhood,” Engadget writes.

“The data could also prove crucial to the federal government’s funding strategy” surrounding the $42.5 billion in broadband spending that has yet to be apportioned from the $1 trillion Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (also known as the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act) that President Biden signed into law November 15, 2021.

The draft status conveys the mapping effort is “far from over,” according to Rosenworcel. “The agency warns that this may only be effective if there’s constant input from everyone involved, ranging from customers through to local governments and companies,” Engadget explains.

There are also questions as to funding commitments beyond the date on which the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law sunsets, September 30, 2026, says Engadget, noting that “the broadband maps only promise to show where coverage falls short — it’s up to politicians, regulators and companies to address any shortcomings.”

“If you think Internet access is important, do every like-minded person a favor: type your address into the FCC’s long-awaited new broadband maps and see if Internet service providers are lying about offering coverage to your home,” urges The Verge, counseling, “if so, hit the little ‘Availability Challenge’ button and submit your proof.”

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