How to solve the rural broadband problem? Fix the maps
So I'm sitting here on the eighth floor of the FCC in Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel's office.
She is the lone democrat on the FCC, and we're here to talk about rural broadband, and how we can get 14 million people who are not connected to broadband In these areas of the country online, so thanks a lot for having us here in your office.
Thank you for joining me.
There's a problem with millions of people living in rural parts of the country.
Sure they don't have access to Broadband.
So what is the problem here, how do you see it?
Why rehit this point?
Right, well let's start with the fact that Broadband is the most essential infrastructure of the digital age.
And we know that communities that have it have a fair shot at an economic opportunity and those without it are going to struggle.
so, we've got to find a way to make sure it reaches everyone, everywhere.
And in big cities and urban places and places where you have dense population the cost of deployment is lower when you get to more rural locations it's harder because financing those networks Deploying them and operating them is just more expensive.
Now that's not a reason not to do it, we're just gonna have to get creative and find ways to reach everyone, everywhere.
I was watching the Senate oversight hearing in August, and another thing that it seems like everybody agrees on Done is that the FCC's broadmaps really stink.
And I think you made reference to this.
[CROSSTALK] Yeah, I think it is.
So, what went wrong?
What's the problem?
Our broadband maps are terrible.
And if we're gonna wanna solve this nation's broadband problems, the first thing we have to do is fix each other's maps.
We need to know
Where broadband is and is not in every corner of this country.
I really don't think you can manage problems that you don't measure.
So it is the first job of this agency and today i just don't think we've done a very good job of it.
but where is the failure?
i mean is it the fact that That you've got carriers who are self-reporting?
I think that's a good place to start.
We have for a long time taken in carriers' self-reported data.
And many of them, I think, are trying to do the best job they can telling us where they believe they can deploy, particularly with wireless service.
But here's the thing.
We gotta go check that data.
The FCC has 13 field offices.
We should use those folks to go out And test what our maps say.
And then we should use the American public as well.
I mean, everyone of us knows where we get bars on our phone.
And where we call for broadband, they say it's not available.
We need to figure out how to Crowd Source all that energy out there in the public.
And develop a map that isn't just made here in Washington but made by all of us.
So, when we're looking, though, at the subsidies, tell me a little bit about the programs that're in place and whether or not you feel like the money's being allocated and going to the right places.
You know, year in and year out the agency spends about 4.5 billion dollars.
To help support providers in rural communities, the ones where it's really hard to make a business case.
And those funds are vital, and important to making sure we have communications in those communities.
But if you ask me, we also need in addition to just giving out the funds, to go check from time to time to make sure that they're being expended Just as those carriers have represented to us that they are.
In other words, I think we need an accountability project.
We need to go send our field officers out and to make sure that when funds are accepted by carriers they actually get truly deployed in rural communities.
Do we need more money dedicated to this?
Or do you think the The few billion here, a few billion there.
Well should we ever have an infrastructure bill in Washington, this is a terrific subject for that bill to address.
That being said, the agency has authority to give out billions of dollars every year to help support rural broadband in some of our most remote communities.
What we really need to be doing is mapping to make sure those scarce dollars go where they are needed most, and then make some efforts to audit and ensure that there's accountability in the expenditure of those dollars so that they're really delivering the service to the consumers that need them.
Is this a problem that's solvable?
This agency has more work to do to solve this problem.
And like I said, mapping is important to make that happen.
But here's the thing, we were able to get telephone service to every household in this country.
We were able to make electrification happen in the rural hard to reach parts of this nation We need to be able to do the same with broadband.
And I think we need to set a goal to make it happen.
And I hope that I can convince my colleagues that by 2020, we should have a goal to reach every household in this country.
Great, well, thanks so much for having us in your office, and for taking the time.
Really appreciate it.
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