FCC's Pai proposes new order to gather better broadband mapping data

In order to better gauge which rural areas in the U.S. lack broadband services, Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai is proposing a new mapping process.

During a Wednesday FCC oversight hearing before the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, Pai outlined his plan for providing more accurate broadband maps.

“I intend to circulate a report and order at the FCC’s monthly meeting in August that would result in a more granular, and more accurate broadband map,” commission chairman Ajit Pai said at the hearing, according to a story by Bloomberg. “That means requiring broadband providers to report where they actually offer service below the census block level, and looking to incorporate public feedback into our mapping efforts.”

The FCC will vote in August on an order aimed at creating a more precise U.S. map of internet access. The FCC will also take public input on the matter before the Aug. 1 vote.

The agency is seeking to improve its broadband mapping data as it prepares to distribute more than $20 billion in telecom subsidies over the next decade to expand high-speed internet access to underserved parts of the country.

According to US Telecom, the FCC currently collects deployment data from broadband providers by census block.

"Unfortunately, location data on homes and businesses too often are not accurately reflected in census block or other available data," according to US Telecom's website. "This issue is particularly acute in less densely populated rural areas where census blocks are far larger than their urban and suburban counterparts."

Republicans and Democrats have contented that the FCC typically relies on inaccurate broadband data that tends to overstate broadband access across rural areas.

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On Wednesday, Senator Roger Wicker (R-MS), Chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, and Senators Gary Peters (D-MI), John Thune (R-SD) and Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) introduced the “Broadband Deployment Accuracy and Technological Availability (Broadband DATA) Act” to create a new nationwide map of addressable broadband locations.

During the hearing, Sen. Jon Tester (D-MT) said that service providers that submit inaccurate information under Pai's new broadband data requirements should be penalized, according to Bloomberg. Pai said he would update the committee on what possible actions the FCC could take to penalize service providers that submit inaccurate data.