Broadband: FCC takes action to accurately map locations that do not have access

What GAO found

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has been tasked under the Broadband Deployment Accuracy and Technological Availability Act (Broadband DATA Act) to create a location structure, which is a data set of all locations or structures in the United States that could be served by broadband, on which broadband deployment data can be overlaid. The goal of this data collection effort is to improve the granularity and accuracy of mapping FCC’s broadband deployment, which will allow FCC to more accurately assess where Americans still do not have access. broadband. To get started, FCC hired a data architect and met with data companies and states to identify options. FAC has issued a call for tenders for a product that meets FAC’s localization fabric needs. Additionally, FCC officials said the data company that generates the location fabric will be tasked with developing a process for state, local, and tribal entities and others to challenge and correct the location data in the fabric. in order to improve their accuracy, as required by law.

Stakeholders interviewed by GAO identified the challenges FAC faces in developing a localization fabric, including incomplete or conflicting data sources, but said these challenges can be overcome using multiple data sources. . For example, according to stakeholders, there is not a single source of location data that will suffice for FAC and its contract data company to develop a precise location fabric; therefore, it is necessary to integrate four main types of data to have a complete location structure, as shown in the figure. This data can come from federal, state, local and commercial sources. State-level pilots have shown that overlaying this data increases the accuracy of the location structure and resolves the limitation that some sources have incomplete data. FCC will also have to deal with other challenges, such as usage restrictions.

Figure: Mapping the broadband usable locations using the four key data types

Why GAO did this study

Broadband is essential for business, education and social functions. While most Americans have access to broadband, many still don’t, a gap known as the digital divide. To help bridge this gap, federal programs are providing funds to support the deployment of broadband in unserved areas. According to the FCC, these programs rely on data that the FCC collects from broadband service providers to identify areas that are and are not served to target their limited funds. However, the GAO has raised concerns about the FCC data for lack of precision and overestimation of the service. The FCC measured broadband deployment by counting an entire census block as served if a provider reports that it offers service to at least one location within the census block. This method may overestimate the extent of broadband deployment if the data shows that a census block has broadband but not all of the census block locations are actually served. The FCC began an effort in 2017 to improve its broadband data, and in 2020 the Broadband DATA Act required FCC to develop a location structure.

The Broadband DATA Act included a provision allowing GAO to assess the main sources of data that could be used to develop a localization fabric. This report (1) describes the progress of FAC in the development of localization tissue; and (2) describes the challenges identified by stakeholders that FCC faces in developing a localization fabric. The GAO reviewed the relevant documents; officials interviewed in 54 states and territories; and interviewed officials from data companies, broadband providers, federal and state agencies.

For more information, contact Andrew Von Ah at (202) 512-2834 or [email protected]

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