USTelecom Boasts of Successful Broadband Mapping Tests in Missouri, Virginia

Trade association USTelecom said it successfully tested a broadband mapping effort in Missouri and Virginia.

August 22, 2019

4 Min Read

WASHINGTON, DC -- The results of USTelecom's groundbreaking data and technology driven Broadband Mapping Initiative pilot program – launched four months ago in Missouri and Virginia – are in, and the findings confirm the concept not only works, but can be implemented nationwide – quickly and cost efficiently.

Created to more accurately and comprehensively map broadband deployment nationwide, the initiative led by USTelecom, ITTA, WISPA, AT&T, CenturyLink, Chariton Valley, Consolidated, Frontier, Riverstreet, TDS, Verizon and Windstream, tested how to improve the Federal Communications Commission's current Form 477 census block-based service collection process.

USTelecom today delivered to the FCC a first-of-its-kind report demonstrating the capability to geocode and map every home and business able to receive broadband in the two states. The method makes it possible to precisely map where broadband is available and more importantly, where it is not.

Jonathan Spalter, President and CEO of USTelecom said: "In just four months, our broadband mapping initiative has completely flipped the national mapping conversation and proven we can now do better than the inaccurate and outdated maps that have prevented homes and businesses in rural areas from getting reliable service. This new mapping solution is a game-changer for rural Americans. We are ready to hand it off to our government partners to ensure agencies, policymakers and providers are empowered with good data to connect more communities to the power and promise of broadband, while ensuring every single dollar of federal broadband support finally can now be accurately targeted and effectively deployed where it needs to go most urgently and quickly."

Genny Morelli, President of ITTA said: "There is widespread recognition that current broadband maps are incomplete and inaccurate. Now that the success of the Pilot Program has shown that an accurate and comprehensive nationwide broadband map can be created in a timely and economically reasonable manner, it is time for federal policymakers to embrace the Consortium's mapping solution which will ensure that federal support is properly targeted to bring broadband to unserved American consumers. Consumers, especially those living in rural areas, have waited long enough for the broadband they need to fully participate in today's digital world."

Claude Aiken, President and CEO of WISPA said: "Addressing the rural digital divide demands the clearest picture possible to see all the facts on the ground. Blurry, out-of-focus snapshots will not do. We've seen their result – nearly 20 million rural Americans still lack broadband today. Our Broadband Mapping Initiative changes that. It employs multiple, overlapping datasets to create a high-definition picture of today's complex broadband marketplace. It trades in dull reading glasses for a microscope. The resulting resolution will eliminate the opacity once guiding policy, helping policymakers and providers see that truly unserved and underserved rural communities receive the broadband they deserve."

Key findings:

  • The pilot program was a success. Using state-of-the-art technology and datasets, it is now possible to precisely identify and geocode every structure in a geographic area that can receive broadband.

  • Pinpointing service availability. The pilot revealed in just the two states, 38 percent of homes and businesses counted as "served" under current reporting are not receiving service from participating providers. While not every broadband provider participated in this pilot—that still leaves the potential for a substantial misrepresentation of service availability.

  • Inaccurate census block counts. Forty-eight (48) percent of the location counts in rural Missouri and Virginia census blocks are wrong, often significantly wrong.

  • Location, location, location. The presumed geocoded location for 61 percent of rural homes and businesses in Missouri and Virginia were off by more than 25 feet and 25 percent were off by more than 328 feet (more than the size of a football field).

  • Timely and cost effective. A national dataset of all broadband serviceable locations is achievable in 12-15 months at a cost between $8.5-$11 million in upfront costs and $3-4 million in annual updates.

  • Enhanced reporting. Regardless of format (shapefile, propagation map, address, etc.) the quality and validity of reporting is driven by the quality of the underlying data on which the report is overlaid.

The USTelecom methodology aggregated hundreds of millions of data points, applied statistical scoring and managed crowdsourcing to pinpoint the exact locations of virtually every structure that is a candidate for broadband in each state.

Based on current knowledge, there are at least 21 million Americans without access to broadband. The FCC has committed $20.4 billion in public funding over the next 10 years to improve rural broadband and bridge the digital divide. With the adoption of the mapping approach demonstrated in the pilot, the FCC can effectively target funds to those areas that remain unserved by broadband.

Jonathan Spalter added: "USTelecom applauds the FCC's focus on the critical issue of broadband mapping. Since launching a rulemaking in August 2017 to increase the granularity of information it collects on broadband availability, the agency has consistently stressed the need to improve its data collection to bring digital opportunity to all Americans. Meeting this challenge is a top priority for our members, and we are pleased to share these pilot results for the review of the Commission, Congress and the public."

United States Telecom Association (USTelecom)

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