Commissioner Rosenworcel: FCC's broadband maps have serious errors

Speaking at the Pew Charitable Trusts, FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel, the only Democratic commissioner on the Commission, expressed frustration at the FCC’s failure to provide accurate maps for wired and wireless Internet services.  She specified that, according to the FCC, 24 million Americans lack access to high-speed Internet service, while a recent Microsoft study put the number closer to 162 million.

Part of the problem is that the FCC’s measurement of broadband access overestimates coverage. By the FCC’s measurement, if one subscriber in an area has broadband service, the entire area is considered covered. For example, FCC data shows 100 percent broadband access in Ferry County, WA, while Microsoft estimates coverage at 2 percent.

“[I]t is becoming abundantly clear we do not have an accurate understanding of where service is and is not in every corner of this country,” Rosenworcel said at the Pew event in response to the Microsoft study.

The Commissioner offered a new framework to solve the problem. She urged policymakers to work collaboratively across all levels of government (federal, state, and local) and consider innovative ideas, such as starting “a pilot project with postal trucks and have them collect wireless deployment data as they go about their routes in rural communities”, reiterating that the “best broadband map is not going to be built by one authority in Washington, it is going to be built by all of us.”


Remarks of Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel (FCC, Dec 11, 2018)

Digital divide is wider than we think, study says (New York Times, Dec. 4, 2018)

Microsoft study: Almost half of Americans lack access to broadband Internet (Speed Matters, Dec. 6, 2018)