Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, told FCC chair Ajit Pai Wednesday (June 12) that the FCC, short of a completely new approach to broadband mapping, should not "move ahead" on any more broadband funding decisions until it gets that data right.
That came in a Senate Commerce FCC oversight hearing.
But Pai had a ready response. He announced at the hearing that he was circulating Report and Order for a vote at the August meeting that would provide more granular and accurate maps. He said that would mean requiring broadband providers to report "where they actually offer service below the census block level."
He said the FCC would also be looking to incorporate public feedback into that mapping efforts.
Last month, Wicker introduced the Broadband Interagency Coordination Act along with Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), which would improve coordination among federal agencies that fund broadband and facilitate information gathering on broadband activity.
Before Pai made his announcement, the Senator also said he would be introducing Wednesday the Broadband Data Act along with several colleagues, including Klobuchar. The bill would require the FCC to collect that more granular data.
NCTA-the Internet and Television Association is proposing using shapefiles rather than census blocks as the units for measure for broadband availability. It argues shapefiles provide more granular data, something everybody is also looking for, than the census block approach the FCC is currently using. NCTA said the key advantage is that "unserved areas within served census blocks would no longer be counted as served."
Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (D-W.Va.) pointed out at the hearing that she has introduced a data improvement bill based on shapefiles--as NCTA has proposed.
Pai said, consistent with his announcement, he would work with her on improving the maps.
He said the fundamental problem is the FCC hires thousands to verify data or rely on outside sources, which is why the FCC would be looking into crowdsourcing.