The Federal Communications Commission finally published new broadband cards after a prolonged development process. The “pre-production project” Release, as described by the FCC, promises much more accurate representations of fixed Internet coverage across the United States. Earlier maps only showed service at the census block level, sometimes ignoring large gaps in real-world connectivity. The new maps are accurate enough that you can search by address to see which carriers are available, including claimed top speeds.
The updated maps could help potential subscribers make more informed choices about broadband service, according to the FCC. They will also theoretically add “market pressures” to internet service providers who might have considered a service area if only one household in a census block was connected. Now they may be required to expand coverage of a city or neighborhood.
The data could also prove crucial to the federal government’s funding strategy. The United States has yet to apportion the $42.5 billion in broadband spending from President Biden’s $1 trillion bipartisan Infrastructure Act. With more accurate maps, managers can now make more informed decisions about where that money goes. It may be particularly important for rural broadband upgradewhich has always been inconsistently and slowly available.
The FCC warns that there is still work to be done. The project status indicates that the mapping work is “far from complete”, according to the regulator. The agency warns that this can only be effective if there is consistent input from everyone involved, ranging from customers to local governments and businesses. In other words, bad updates will render maps ineffective.
There are also questions about funding and long-term policy. While the bipartisan infrastructure law may help, there is no guarantee of further commitments in the years to come. Broadband maps only promise to show where coverage falls short – it’s up to politicians, regulators and businesses to fix any shortcomings.