TR Daily House Passes Two Broadband Mapping Bills
Monday, December 16, 2019

House Passes Two Broadband Mapping Bills

The House this afternoon passed by voice vote two broadband mapping bills – the Broadband Deployment Accuracy and Technological Availability Act (Broadband DATA Act) (HR 4229), and the Mapping Accuracy Promotion Services Act (MAPS Act) (HR 4227).

The Broadband DATA Act would require the FCC to issue rules requiring the collection of granular broadband availability data and the formation of a data-accuracy verification process; authorize funding of $25 million in fiscal year 2021 and $9 million per year for FYs 2022 through 2028; direct the Government Accountability Office to review the FCC’s progress on mapping accuracy; provide technical assistance for small providers; and seek to ensure that the FCC considers lessons learned from the Mobility Fund Phase II challenge process.

The Broadband DATA Act would also require the FCC to “create a common dataset of all locations in the United States where fixed broadband internet access service can be installed, as determined by the Commission,” an approach that USTelecom, ITTA, and the Wireless Internet Service Providers Association demonstrated in a two-state pilot earlier this year.

The Broadband DATA Act would authorize the FCC to contract with “an entity with expertise with respect to geographic information systems (referred to in this subsection as ‘GIS’) to create and maintain the dataset.”

The legislation, which cleared the House Energy and Commerce Committee last month, was introduced by Reps. Dave Loebsack (D., Iowa), Bob Latta (R., Ohio), A. Donald McEachin (D., Va.), and Billy Long (R., Mo.).

The MAPS Act 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. It also cleared the Energy and Commerce Committee last month.

“Today, the House passed two important bills designed to fix our nation’s faulty broadband maps. Accurately mapping the availability of broadband internet service is essential to promoting the deployment of high-speed service to all Americans, especially those in unserved and underserved areas,” full committee Chairman Frank Pallone Jr. (D., N.J.) and communications and technology subcommittee Chairman Mike Doyle (D., Pa.) said in a statement. “We thank Committee members for working on these bipartisan bills, and we urge the Senate to act soon to ensure the reliability of broadbands maps so investments in broadband can have maximum impact.”

“The first step in expanding broadband to communities in America who lack adequate access is to understand exactly where those communities are. These bipartisan bills 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, these bills will help ensure we are not repeating past mistakes and are directing our limited resources to the communities who need them most. We look forward to swift action in the Senate to send these bipartisan bills to President Trump’s desk,” full committee ranking member Greg Walden (R., Ore.) and communications subcommittee ranking member Latta said in a statement.

Jonathan Spalter, president and chief executive officer of USTelecom, said, “We’re 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 step forward by the House and requires the adoption of a state-of-the-art technology and data driven approach to modernizing the national broadband coverage maps. Now it’s off to the Senate and soon enough future federal broadband spending in rural America will be based – finally – on the most accurate and granular map we’ve ever had. Almost there.”

“The Broadband DATA Act and the MAPS Act are extremely important to ensuring no American is left behind in the digital world,” said Competitive Carriers Association President and CEO Steve Berry. “Improving the broadband data maps has been on the top of CCA members’ priority lists, and it is absolutely critical that the maps are based on parameters that accurately reflect consumers’ on-the-ground experiences to ensure all consumers, especially those in unserved and underserved areas, have access to vital mobile broadband services.”

NTCA CEO Shirley Bloomfield said her group is “encouraged that mapping bills put forth by Reps. Dave Loebsack (D-Iowa), Bob Latta (R-Ohio), Donald McEachin (D-Va.) and Billy Long (R-Mo.) passed in the House. Improving broadband availability maps is essential for rural, community-based broadband providers to continue the mission of closing the digital divide.”

“WISPA commends today’s passage of the Broadband DATA Act and the MAPS Act, which taken on their own and together witness Congress’ zeal to ensure our broadband maps are accurate, and thus useful in directing limited government support to areas that truly lack broadband,” said Claude Aiken, president and CEO of WISPA. —Paul Kirby, [email protected]

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