The Improving Broadband Mapping Act directs the FCC to initiate a rulemaking to consider using consumer-reported data as well as state and local data to improve broadband mapping accuracy while also considering ways that both fixed and mobile coverage data can be challenged

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), Joe Manchin (D-WV), and John Hoeven (R-ND) introduced bipartisan legislation to improve the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) broadband coverage maps. The Improving Broadband Mapping Act directs the FCC to initiate a rulemaking to consider using consumer-reported data and state and local data from government entities to improve broadband mapping accuracy while also considering ways that both fixed and mobile coverage data can be challenged. The bill will help close the digital divide by giving policymakers more accurate data on broadband coverage nationwide.

“In order to deploy broadband nationwide, we need reliable data on where service exists and where it does not,Klobuchar said. “Our bipartisan legislation will help ensure we are closing the digital divide with accurate mapping and bringing high-speed internet to every family, regardless of their zip code.”

“Broadband connectivity has become vital in our 21st century economy, but too many West Virginians still don’t have access and are being left behind. That has to change,” Capito said. “Accurate broadband availability maps are essential for us to evaluate who has access and who does not. As a follow up to our letter to Chairman Pai last September, I am proud to join my fellow Senate Broadband Caucus co-chair to introduce a bill that builds upon our work to close the digital divide in rural America. This legislation will allow West Virginians to voluntarily provide valuable feedback about the actual mobile service in their communities; and ultimately, better connect our state and others across the country.”

“With mountainous terrain and low population density, rural states like West Virginia rely on federal funding for much needed investments in broadband. In order to ensure that funding is directed toward the places that need it the most, we need to have more reliable coverage maps based on data that accurately depicts what people on the ground are experiencing,” Manchin said. “As the only member of Congress to formally challenge a federal broadband coverage map through the Mobility Fund Phase II challenge process, I know firsthand just how valuable public input can be in validating and supplementing the provider data that is used to draw these maps. This bill is a good first step, and I hope the FCC will take action to begin this rulemaking process.”

“The FCC’s broadband maps can misidentify areas as covered when there is not actually adequate broadband service,” Hoeven said. “Our legislation would help improve the quality of the data used for the maps and allow for a process to correct mistakes. This will help ensure communities have adequate coverage and that federal investments in broadband infrastructure are being made as effectively and efficiently as possible.”

In February, Minnesota and West Virginia were chosen by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) to collaborate with six other states to broaden and update the national broadband availability map. Minnesota and West Virginia will join California, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Utah, to contribute data and other inputs to improve the accuracy of national broadband mapping.

As a member of the Senate Commerce Committee and co-chair of the bipartisan Senate Broadband Caucus, Klobuchar has long championed improving the accuracy in national broadband mapping and rural broadband expansion. In September 2018, Klobuchar and Senator Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) led a letter to the (FCC) highlighting that the FCC’s mobile coverage maps and nationwide broadband coverage reports overstated service and quality in rural areas and encouraging the FCC  to use crowdsourced data to improve coverage maps. Additionally, Senators Klobuchar and Capito joined Senator Machin in writing a letter to the FCC Chairman urging him to evaluate how consumer data can complement Form 477 data to more accurately determine broadband coverage.

Last Congress, Klobuchar and Senator Roger Wicker (R-MS) led the Precision Agriculture Connectivity Act, which was signed into law as part of the 2018 Farm Bill. The bipartisan legislation will identify gaps in coverage and encourage broadband deployment on farms and ranchland. The 2018 Omnibus Budget Act, which was signed into law on March 23, 2018, contained an additional $600 million for dedicated broadband funding, as well as Klobuchar’s bills to encourage wireless carriers to work with rural or smaller carriers to increase wireless broadband access in rural communities and to cut red tape by ensuring that states coordinate highway construction projects with broadband providers so that broadband infrastructure can be installed at the same time—known as “dig once.”