Why Rural America is Still Not Connected

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[Op-ed] Who truly has access to broadband (high-speed internet) in America? Right now, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) relies on data from a federal filing, known as Form 477, to identify where the greatest need is and who does or does not have coverage. This data is submitted by Internet Services Providers (ISPs) themselves and, although it does give us a snapshot of some coverage, it’s not as accurate as you may think. We must take a smarter approach to ensure accurate broadband data maps are used to find appropriate solutions—by forming a national clearinghouse for the collection and analysis of broadband data. We believe there should be more granular data collected nationally—at the street address or land parcel level of detail instead of by Census block. The data collection should include finding out each provider’s coverage abilities, auditing the information, and collecting discrepancies and demand for services from local citizens. We have a chance to get it right this time by authorizing the creation of a single, qualified, independent entity to oversee how data is collected and analyzed—in a way that protects sensitive provider information, while providing a mechanism for the government to get the information it needs to make more responsible funding decisions for broadband buildout. This simple solution to the challenge of ensuring no one living in this country is left out of what is an ever-evolving digital world.

[Tom Ferree is the Chairman & CEO of Connected Nation


Why Rural America is Still Not Connected