TR Daily House Passes Bipartisan, Bicameral Version of Broadband DATA Act
Tuesday, March 3, 2020

House Passes Bipartisan, Bicameral Version of Broadband DATA Act

The House today passed by unanimous consent a broadband mapping bill that combines provisions from the Broadband Deployment Accuracy and Technological Availability Act (Broadband DATA Act) (HR 4229), and the Mapping Accuracy Promotion Services Act (MAPS Act) (HR 4227), both of which the House passed in December (TR Daily, Dec. 16, 2019).

The legislation was passed as an amendment in the form of a substitute for the Senate version of the Broadband DATA Act (S 1822), which the Senate also passed in December (TR Daily, Dec. 19, 2019). The House’s action sends the bill back to the Senate for further consideration.

HR 4229 would require the FCC to issue rules requiring the collection of granular broadband availability data and the formation of a data-accuracy verification process, among other things. It was introduced by Reps. Dave Loebsack (D., Iowa), Bob Latta (R., Ohio), A. Donald McEachin (D., Va.), and Billy Long (R., Mo.).

HR 4227 would make it unlawful to “willfully, knowingly, or recklessly” submit inaccurate broadband service data to the FCC. It was introduced by Reps. McEachin, Long, Loebsack, and Latta.

In a joint statement after the passage of the amended version of S 1822, House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Frank Pallone Jr. (D., N.J.), House communications and technology subcommittee Chairman Mike Doyle (D., Pa.), and committee members Loebsack and McEachin said, “This bill is the result of an agreement with the Senate to merge multiple bills into one package that can be signed by the President.”

The Democratic lawmakers added, “It’s unfortunate that the Federal Communications Commission has failed to address these issues on its own, but this bipartisan bill marks a huge step forward in building out broadband where it is needed. We expect the Senate to act quickly on this bill and send it to the President’s desk so we can target future investments in broadband to the areas that need it the most.”

In their own joint statement, House Commerce Committee ranking minority member Greg Walden (R., Ore.) and House communications subcommittee ranking minority member Bob Latta (R., Ohio) said, “While our way of life is becoming more reliant on technologies, 19 million Americans—including one-fourth of people in rural areas—still do not have access to broadband services. We cannot expand broadband to communities who lack adequate access without understanding exactly where those communities are, which is why this effort is so important. This bipartisan bill will help us assess the availability of internet across our country and take the necessary steps to improve connectivity for all Americans, regardless of their zip code. Importantly, this bill will also make sure we do not repeat past mistakes by better directing our limited resources to the communities who need them most. We look forward to our Senate colleagues taking swift action on this bill and President Trump signing it into law.”

Schools, Health & Libraries Broadband (SHLB) Coalition Executive Director John Windhausen Jr. said, “We are extremely pleased that Chairman Pallone and Ranking Member Walden and other congressional leaders agreed to amend the Broadband DATA Act to protect the integrity of the E-rate program. Previous versions of the legislation could have caused thousands of E-rate applicants and potentially Rural Health Care applicants to lose their funding. SHLB is also grateful to Representative Anna Eshoo [D., Calif.] for ensuring that the FCC’s broadband maps will include anchor institutions. We thank Congress for—quite literally—putting anchor institutions on the map.”

Competitive Carriers Association President and Chief Executive Officer Steve Berry said, “I commend the House for passing the Broadband DATA Act. Every Member of Congress knows the parts of their district that have insufficient or no broadband service, and this legislation will help ensure that these areas can access the advanced broadband services they need and deserve. Reliable data is essential to improving the maps and achieving the FCC’s goal of closing the digital divide. I thank the House for passing this legislation and urge the Senate to act swiftly to send it to the President’s desk for enactment.”

Christina Mason, vice president–government affairs at the Wireless Internet Service Providers Association, said that if enacted, the House-passed versin of S 1822 “would go far in shepherding limited government support to areas that truly lack broadband, efficiently delivering Internet access to those who really need it, without overbuilding ISPs already there.”

She added, “Our own mapping efforts have led to the creation of a broadband serviceable location fabric, providing a hyper-accurate level of detail demanded to comprehensively understand the extent of the digital divide. Presently, the FCC is studying our approach and others in its efforts to make broadband maps more accurate and useful. S. 1822 employs many of these same concepts and guidelines.”

WISPA teamed with USTelecom and ITTA last year on a two-state pilot project to create a serviceable location “fabric.”

NTCA CEO Shirley Bloomfield said, “NTCA welcomes the advancement of legislation to improve the broadband mapping process to more accurately represent deployment. The bill takes several important steps toward improving broadband mapping—including more granular data collection and, the establishment of a challenge process. Better maps will help inform policymakers and providers when making important policy and investment decisions related to rural broadband deployment.”

Ms. Bloomfield added, “NTCA commends the House for passing this broadband mapping legislation and we look forward to its passage in the Senate. Improving broadband availability maps is essential for rural, community-based broadband providers to continue the mission of closing the digital divide.”

USTelecom President and CEO Jonathan Spalter said, “Today’s vote in the House brings us closer than ever to fixing our outdated broadband maps and getting a clearer picture of who has—and who still lacks—21st century broadband connectivity. This is a major, data-driven step forward in how we map broadband, and ultimately close the digital divide, in rural America.

He added that “future federal broadband spending in rural America is about to be based on the most accurate and granular map ever created.” —Lynn Stanton, [email protected]

MainStory: FederalNews Congress BroadbandDeployment

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