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Opinion: FCC’s Better Broadband Mapping Is Needed Upgrade

The federal government’s definition of what constitutes adequate broadband service has been redefined, a needed upgrade that comes thanks to legislation recently signed into law by President Donald Trump.

FCC headquarters
Shutterstock/Jer123
(TNS) — The federal government’s definition of adequate broadband service has been redefined, a needed upgrade that comes thanks to legislation recently signed into law by President Donald Trump.

The legislation —cosponsored by U.S. Rep. Mike Doyle D-Forest Hills, chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s communications and technology subcommittee — requires the Federal Communications Commission to provide better, more accurate maps of broadband internet availability across the United States.

The FCC’s mapping prior to the new law counted a Census tract as having broadband access if some parts of it have such a connection, even if the majority do not. The new law requires a more granular approach to better identify underserved areas.

The goal of the new law is to ensure federal funding for rural broadband internet service in areas that today lack this 21st century necessity — a need that has become all the more urgent amid the stay-at-home orders resulting from the coronavirus pandemic.

Broadband mapping is what’s used to direct federal funding to extend internet service to rural and remote areas where service providers are reluctant to build infrastructure because of the limited number of users.

“Accurately mapping unserved and underserved communities is essential to promoting the deployment of high-speed service to all Americans and ensuring our investments have maximum impact,” Mr. Doyle and three others said in a joint statement.

The importance of connectivity is obvious as millions of Americans are using the internet to work from home while their children are getting school assignments remotely as well.

The federal Universal Service Fund distributes federal funds — including $8.4 billion in 2018 — to telecommunications carriers for extending internet service to remote areas. The legislation signed into law March 23 should get this money to where it’s most needed in the future.

©2020 the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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