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December 20, 2019

Senate Passes Collins, King Bill to Improve Broadband Data Maps

Bipartisan Broadband DATA Act will improve collection process for broadband data; poor data has hindered Maine’s ability to improve access rural broadband

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senators Susan Collins and Angus King, co-chair of the Senate Rural Broadband Caucus, lauded the passage of the Broadband Deployment Accuracy and Technological Availability (DATA) Act, a bipartisan bill they co-sponsored. The legislation would increase the accuracy of the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) broadband availability maps by improving the process by which broadband data is collected.

“As a native of Aroostook County, I know how important access to high-speed Internet is to the vitality of rural communities,” said Senator Collins.  “Broadband helps unlock the Internet’s economic benefits by allowing residents to work from home, upgrade their skills through online education, stay connected to their families as they age in place, and access health care through advances in telemedicine.  This bipartisan legislation would help us bridge the digital divide between urban and rural communities through improved data collection.”

“One of my top legislative priorities is expanding high-speed broadband access to rural Maine communities – but if we don’t have good data to work from, we won’t know where to make the right investments,” said Senator King. “We need to improve and modernize the FCC’s method of data collection so rural communities in need aren’t left behind in an increasingly digital world. This is a critically important step that will make sure we’re investing in the right places to close the digital divide and bring all of the internet’s opportunities to rural Maine people.”

Specifically, the Broadband DATA Act:

  • Requires the FCC to collect highly detailed service availability data from wired, fixed wireless, and satellite broadband providers.
  • Requires strong parameters for service availability data collected from mobile broadband providers to ensure accuracy.
  • Asks the FCC to consider whether to collect verified coverage data from state, local, and tribal governments, as well as from other entities.
  • Creates a process for consumers, state, local, Tribal governments, and other groups to challenge FCC maps with their own data, and requires the FCC to determine how to structure the process without making it overly burdensome on challengers.

Earlier this year, Senators Collins and Doug Jones (D-AL) introduced the American Broadband Buildout Act of 2019 (ABBA), a bipartisan bill to ensure that rural Americans have access to broadband services.

As a co-chair of the Senate Broadband Caucus, Senator King has been a strong advocate for improved broadband mapping data. Cosponsoring the Broadband DATA Act is his latest effort to improve the accuracy of FCC broadband maps.  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.

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