Over 160 million of Americans lack reliable or affordable high-speed internet. Black, Latinx, Native American and rural families suffer from this digital divide.
The federal government has been using inaccurate maps to target broadband infrastructure spending leaving millions without connectivity. The FCC after recent Congressional action has launched the FCC Broadband Data Collection program to collect first-hand accounts” about availability, quality and service. This information will help the FCC update its service maps and target investment where it is most needed.
“Far too many Americans are left behind in access to jobs, education, and healthcare if they do not have access to broadband. Collecting data from consumers who are directly affected by the lack of access to broadband will help inform the FCC’s mapping efforts and future decisions about where service is needed,” explained Acting FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel.
The American Rescue Plan includes $360 billion dollars for state and local governments to expand broadband access and adoption. The Act allows the U.S. Department of Treasury to distribute funds directly to state, county, and local governments to be used to invest in infrastructure for addressing the digital divide. The Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021 offers a rare opportunity to use Federal funding to subsidize device and broadband availability for lower-income communities and digital navigation programs.
The best way to distribute resources is to match it to the area where it is most needed. That's why communities should take this opportunity to collect and report their internet availability.
This blog explains:
- How to collect and report internet speeds at different locations in your community
- How faulty FCC data leaves millions of Americans without internet access
- Federal broadband funding programs
- More resources
Measure and report internet quality
Use this free survey form to test and collect the internet speed at any location. This form was designed by Patrick Ryan of esri and incorporates the Ookla Speedtest. Simply go to a spot and press the 'GO' button to measure the Upload and Download speeds. These results are geotagged with the with the location chosen on the map (with latitude and longitude) as well as the data and time of the test. These results are immediately displayed on a map.
Submit the information you collect to the FCC through their Broadband Data Collection form.
Display and share data collected
"The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) collects data on broadband availability from providers on where they have broadband infrastructure. The FCC considers broadband to be “available” for an entire census block if the provider could serve at least one location in the census block. The FCC does not collect information on several factors—such as affordability, quality, and denials of service. FCC provides broadband funding for unserved areas based on its broadband data. Overstatements of access limit FCC’s and tribal stakeholders’ abilities to target broadband funding to such areas." - GAO. Overstating (exaggerating) the availability of internet access distorts reality and lets broadband providers avoid having to the serve areas that need the internet the most."
"Many studies show that the Federal Communication Commission (FCC) Form 477 grossly overstates broadband availability (for example here, here, and here). Form 477 influences millions of dollars in federal broadband spending. Understanding this data is an important first step to improving it and providing adequate and affordable broadband for all. This data provides communities with the knowledge to collect more granular data where it is needed to contest where 477 overstates availability and seek funding opportunities." - John Kahan, Microsoft
Black, brown, Native American and rural communities suffer the most from the lack of internet access. Check this map for the internet availability and the racial composition of any county.
Indicators of broadband need
The U.S. Dept. of Commerce and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) Indicators of Broadband Need map was shows broadband availability. It uses data from the American Community Survey collected by the U.S. Census, Measurement Lab (M-Lab), Ookla, Microsoft and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).
Federal Broadband Funding
"On June 17, the US Treasury Department clarified the rules for using federal ARPA broadband money that is being given to states, counties, cities, and smaller political subdivisions. These rules clarify that local government can use the funds to serve businesses and households that are considered as served – meaning they receive broadband speeds over 25/3 Mbps.
The clarifications make it clear that ARPA money can always be used to overbuild rural DSL. It’s also clear that the ARPA money can be used in urban settings as long as the funded area included at least one location that doesn’t have a broadband option of at least 25/3 Mbps. There are numerous little pockets in all cities where the cable companies didn’t build and where DSL is the only option. Cities can clearly use this funding to provide support for low-income neighborhoods and places the big ISPs have bypassed or ignored." - POTS & PANS
"This is the year for unusual and unexpected broadband grant opportunities. The NTIA released a Notice of Funding Opportunity (NOFO) on May 21 for a broadband grant program it is labeling as the Broadband Infrastructure Program. The NTIA will be awarding grants for up to $288 million, with the funding provided from the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan Act." - POTS & PANS
Broadband Availability and Adoption - Resources to bridge the digital divide
Indicators of Broadband need - Broadband availability in the US
USDA Broadband ReConnect Program - Helping bridge the rural digital divide
POTS & PANS - Broadband access for all newsletter
Ookla For Good - Speedtest by Ookla which reports upload and download speeds
FCC Emergency Broadband Benefit - help families struggling to afford internet service
Tribal Broadband - Bridging The Digital Divide in Indian Country
Tackling the Digital Divide - Understand the disparity and resources for advocacy
Address Racial and Digital Inequity - How lack of internet holds back certain groups