Open internet advocate Public Knowledge urged the FCC to clarify the challenge process, the availability of satellite internet and the role of anchor institutions.
Just days after the Federal Communications Commission released an initial draft of a national map showing the availability of broadband internet, some groups are criticizing what they see as the map’s shortcomings.
A letter from open internet nonprofit Public Knowledge dated Nov. 22 called for various improvements to the FCC’s mapping process, which it said had some “inaccuracies.”
Public Knowledge said the procedures for states, local communities and even individuals to challenge the broadband availability map needs to be clarified, as many stakeholders expressed “confusion” over the challenge process. The group also said that the FCC should better explain how it would use local challenges against speeds, if the reported speed on the map is not actually offered by internet service providers.
The organization questioned the satellite broadband availability data, which it said “misleadingly indicates that the vast majority of the country is served.” Instead, Public Knowledge said the FCC should update its maps to provide a “more realistic picture of broadband availability.” While satellite internet has shown promise, the nonprofit said, in practice satellite providers cannot serve most locations in the country with broadband.
Additionally, community institutions like schools and libraries were left off the FCC’s maps of residential service, Public Knowledge said. The FCC apparently assumed that those buildings receive commercial broadband service, when, in fact, many anchor institutions use residential service and should be included in the map.
In a blog post to mark the maps’ release, FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel said this first version is part of “an ongoing, iterative process where we are consistently adding new data to improve and refine the maps.”
At the state level, New York challenged the new map’s assessment of broadband availability, submitting over 31,000 unserved and underserved addresses to the FCC; other states are set to join in the challenge process.
Officials on the Vermont Community Broadband Board reportedly said the map massively overstates the availability of coverage in the state, not only from satellite providers but also wired and wireless connections. The board’s Deputy Director Robert Fish said that while the FCC now estimates that just 3% of Vermont households lack access to broadband speeds, that rate was around 20% in 2021.
Other officials, including state-level authorities in Hawaii and elsewhere as well as lawmakers in the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate, have issued broader calls for the public to check the maps’ accuracy themselves.