A recently introduced bill would enhance the accuracy of broadband coverage maps, a key step toward boosting high-speed internet access in rural areas. The bipartisan Broadband Data Improvement Act of 2019, backed by the American Farm Bureau Federation, would also better direct federal funds for broadband buildout.
“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,” AFBF President Zippy Duvall said in a statement supporting the bill.
The Broadband Data Improvement Act of 2019 would require broadband providers to report data to create a significantly more accurate and granular National Broadband Map that would be subject to an ongoing and multi-faceted challenge, validation and refinement process. With more accurate and granular data, federal agencies will be better able to target funding to the areas that need it the most.
“Farm Bureau applauds Sen. Capito (R-W. Va.) and her colleagues for their leadership on this vital issue and we will work with them in favor of swift consideration of this measure,” said Duvall.
Capito was joined by Sens. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) and Jon Tester (D-Mont.) in introducing the legislation.
The Broadband Data Improvement Act of 2019 would:
- Require broadband providers to provide detailed, granular service availability data to the federal government;
- Establish a three-pronged data-validation process that includes the collection of public feedback regarding broadband map accuracy, the acquisition of third-party commercial datasets on broadband availability and on-the-ground field validation of services in areas where public feedback and third-party data suggest the map is incorrect;
- Create a scheduled process by which the public and broadband service providers may challenge the map;
- Require federal agencies to use the National Broadband Map to identify areas that remain unserved and track where awarded funds have resulted in broadband buildout;
- Provide data submission assistance to smaller service providers that may not be fully capable of providing the required information.