The House of Representatives has passed Farm Bureau-backed legislation that will improve the accuracy of broadband coverage maps to better identify needs. The Broadband Deployment Accuracy and Technological Availability (DATA) Act (H.R. 4229) requires broadband providers to report more specific data to create a significantly more accurate and granular National Broadband Map. With more precise data, federal agencies can target funding to areas that need it most.
During the Montana Farm Bureau 100th Annual Convention, RJ Karney, American Farm Bureau Policy Director, who presented at a workshop on rural broadband, noted, “For agriculture, having broadband is necessary to compete in a global economy, from precision agriculture to watching commodity prices. In rural communities, it’s necessary for health care, public safety and education. There are too many stories of kids going to the parking lot of a fast-food restaurant for connectivity so they can do their homework. Being connected expands opportunities for students to benefit from distance learning. American Farm Bureau has been pushing for this bill that focuses on coverage using accurate maps.”
MFBF Executive Director John Youngberg who has studied the maps, added, “Current maps are woefully inaccurate in telling the true story of availability in rural areas. Rural cooperatives are working hard to develop broadband networks but many times the ‘last mile’ cost outpaces available monetary resources. We thank members of the House who worked diligently to pass this legislation and who are committed to delivering broadband access to rural communities. We hope to see the Senate take up this issue without delay.”
Current broadband coverage maps are inadequate because they rely on census block data to determine which areas are covered. Census blocks are too large in rural and remote locations to accurately determine need. If even one household in a given census block is reported by a provider as being served, then the entire block is considered served. Census blocks larger than 2 square miles comprise more than 64% of the U.S. land area, so every rural area is impacted by this problem in some way.
In addition to creating more accurate maps, the bill requires the FCC to establish an audit process that ensures internet service providers are providing accurate data used to create the maps. It also would create a user-friendly process to challenge the data.