New broadband map to help allocate federal funding

On Friday, the Federal Communications Commission will unveil a new broadband internet service plan. Or a single example. It’s been a year this week since President Joe Biden signed the bipartisan infrastructure law that, among other things, will cost more than $40 billion to address our nation’s broadband crisis.

The maps that the federal government used to make those decisions in the past, by federal approval, were not very accurate.

If you’ve spent this week waiting for Taylor Swift’s tickets to drop, then you know what it’s like to work on the general equation.

“You know, it’s kind of strange that people are now crossing their fingers waiting for maps,” said Brian Whitacre, an economist at Oklahoma State University.

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It’s a secret that our current broadband map is so bad, he says. They rely on data from internet providers for the statistical blocks they operate.

“The biggest problem with that is that if you do one thing, you’ll do it all wrong,” Whitacre said.

Basically, if a building is connected, the whole block is green on the map.

Whitacre said it works well in the suburbs. But not so much in rural areas, where a census block can cover hundreds or thousands of square miles.

“They’re probably talking about half or a third more,” he said.

The new map will be based on more data, said Tyler Cooper, editor-in-chief of BroadbandNow.

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“So tomorrow, when this new data set comes out, we’re going to see a lot of these areas suddenly turn red,” Cooper said.

And suddenly it became a target for much-needed funds.

“I would caution against that by saying, you know, I think it’s going to be very problematic,” he said.

​Because people can challenge the available broadband data on the new map – a process that takes place online.

“Right off the bat, communities without reliable internet will suffer,” said EJ John, a policy and research analyst with the American Indian Policy Institute. “You need information. And if you can’t go out into your community and go door to door and do your own research, then it’s going to be really hard to give a good challenge.

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John said that meant that some of the poorest communities would be left with nothing at all. New map or not.

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