May 14, 2019
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Angus King (I-Maine), a co-chair of the Senate Broadband Caucus, co-hosted an event focused on improving the quality of information used in broadband mapping. These maps are used by policymakers to allocate resources for broadband projects; if a region is inaccurately shown to already meet a certain level of broadband service on these maps, they will not receive the investment needed to improve their service. In addition to Senator King, the event included his Senate Broadband Caucus co-chairs Senators Shelley Moore Capito (R-W. Va.), John Boozman (R-Ark.), and Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), officials from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), and leaders of the telecommunications industry.
“Broadband is the essential infrastructure of the 21st century,” said Senator King. “This is a really serious problem for rural America for two reasons. One, without broadband it’s very difficult to develop any kind economic activity, and secondly, it’s very difficult to keep people living in an area that doesn’t have broadband. If you can imagine yourself looking at a house with a realtor and they say, ‘Well it has a nice view, on the road, and everything; but by the way, you’ll never have broadband,’ – chances are, you wouldn’t buy that house. And yet, this is the case in many parts of rural America. So, that’s the context in which this is so incredibly important to states like Maine…
“...What we’re talking about today is mapping. And I’m a great believer that you can’t make good policy without good data. If we don’t have good mapping of exactly where the service is, where it isn’t, then it’s very hard to really determine where the policy should be or where the policy initiatives should take place. For example, all the maps show Augusta, Maine, as a place with great cellular service, but as a guy who drives through it periodically I can tell you: if you’re on the Maine Turnpike just west of Augusta, forget it. You don’t have cellular service, let alone broadband.”
As a co-chair of the Senate Broadband Caucus, Senator King has been a strong advocate for improved broadband mapping data. In September 2018, Senator King wrote a letter to the USDA seeking specific provisions in the ReConnect broadband pilot program, including acquiring up-to-date broadband mapping data. USDA incorporated these provisions in its regulations for the program that it issued in December 2018. Senator King also renewed his push for up-to-date broadband maps in a February 2019 letter to FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, which was co-signed by a bipartisan group of 10 Senators.
Digital connectivity in rural regions is a key component of Senator King’s economic agenda to help modernize and grow Maine’s rural economy, support innovation and create jobs. Earlier this month, Senators King and Capito reintroduced legislation to measure the economic impact of broadband so state and federal policymakers can understand the return they will receive on any investments in digital infrastructure. The legislation had previously passed the Senate in December, but was not taken up by the House. In April, Senator King joined his colleagues to introduce legislation to promote “digital equity” so Americans of all background can have equal access to the opportunities created by the internet.