Free Press Optimistic About FCC Broadband Data Update

Says it should improve deployment data collection
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WASHINGTON — Media advocacy group Free Press says it is cautiously optimistic about the Federal Communications Commission's proposal to improve collection of broadband availability data.

FCC chairman Ajit Pai has released a draft Report and Order to improve the accuracy of the data and increase the access of the public to that data.

RELATED: NCTA Says Crowdsourcing Broadband Data Should Only be 'Supplement'

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“Members of Congress, advocates, researchers and everyday people who have long clamored for better broadband-deployment data should be cautiously optimistic about chairman Pai’s proposed reforms," Free Press research director Derek Turner said. “The new Digital Opportunity Data Collection process should address the most common complaint about the FCC’s current mapping efforts: the potential for overstating deployment in certain rural areas.

“Though this change may produce better data on rural deployment, the chairman’s proposal wisely recognizes the need to show this improvement before the agency scraps the current reporting system,” Turner said. “The proposal also retains the current census block-level reporting methodology and full public dissemination of that information. Maintaining the existing methodology will ensure that researchers and advocates can continue using the FCC’s deployment data in conjunction with the census’ demographic information. That lets us monitor deployment in low-income communities over time and track other important changes.”

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The FCC and both sides of the aisle in Congress are in agreement that deployment data is lacking and needs to be improved, particularly as the FCC tries to close the digital divide, which depends on knowing where broadband currently is or isn't.

The proposal is to collect more granular data by:

1.) Creating the Digital Opportunity Data Collection (DODC) regime, which will collect geospatial broadband coverage maps from ISPs.

2.) Collect public input (crowdsourcing) on the accuracy of the mpas

3.) Update its Form 477 reporting form to reduce the "reporting burdens" and incorporate new technologies.

The item also includes a Second Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking seeking comment on technical standards for fixed broadband that would make reporting more precise, including mobile wireless voice and broadband in DOCO, and on whether Form 477 should be sunset. 

“NCTA strongly supports the draft item establishing a new broadband data collection regime," said the association. "The shapefile-based reporting approach proposed in the item is the most efficient way for the FCC to collect more granular, more accurate deployment data.”

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