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Legislation is a Key Step Toward Improving Rural Broadband Coverage

Podcast / Newsline May 23, 2019

The American Farm Bureau says recently-introduced legislation would enhance the accuracy of broadband coverage maps, a good first step to improving rural broadband coverage. Chad Smith has more.

Smith: RJ Karney, senior director of congressional relations for the American Farm Bureau, discusses how the legislation would improve broadband mapping.

Karney: What the Broadband Data Improvement Act will do will correct current methods of gathering data, and it’ll do this by requiring broadband providers to report data to create an improved national broadband map. It’s going to focus predominantly on accuracy and granularity.

Smith: Karney says the legislation would improve the accuracy of broadband mapping through public feedback, third-party commercial data sets and on-ground field validation. The current mapping system uses what are called census blocks, which Karney says doesn’t paint an accurate picture of broadband coverage areas.

Karney: The reason census blocks are so detrimental to rural areas is if one entity, a household, a hospital, a school, a library, receives broadband, then that entire census block is considered  fully covered, even if it’s only one entity in that entire census block that is covered.

Smith: He says the problem is there are more than 3,200 census blocks covering rural areas that are larger than Washington D.C. There are four rural census blocks bigger than the state of Connecticut. That doesn’t accurately show where broadband coverage is located in rural areas. Karney says Farm Bureau supports the bill because rural broadband is no longer a luxury.

Karney: For precision agricultural purposes, farmers and ranchers want to be more efficient, economical and responsive to environmental needs. In order to do so, they need connectivity in their farmlands and out in their ranchlands, as well. For rural communities, they need access to modern technologies for education purposes, distance learning, for healthcare purposes with telemedicine, also for public safety and entrepreneurship.

Smith: Karney says Farm Bureau is urging members to call their senators and representatives and tell them to support the bill. Chad Smith, Washington.

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