Connect with us

Broadband Mapping

Maps Still Inaccurate, YouTube Privacy Breach, and Commerce Department Dysfunction

Emily McPhie

Published

on

On Thursday, Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.V., sent a letter to Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai urging the agency to utilize public input to fix broadband coverage maps.

“The FCC’s maps are still woefully inaccurate, and they are hurting the economy and the people of West Virginia,” said Manchin, adding that the lack of broadband access has been especially harmful to the tourism industry.

The letter included the results of speed tests taken in the city of Cabins, W.V. averaging 0.15 Megabits per second (Mbps) download speed and 0.11 Mbps upload speed.

“These numbers are well below your agency’s definition of broadband and the advertised speed they were given by their provider,” said Manchin, asking the agency to “use this data to validate the information West Virginia’s broadband providers have submitted to the FCC and ensure that they are eligible for any and all relevant broadband grants and other resources.”

Federal Trade Commission finalizes Google-YouTube Children privacy settlement 

The Federal Trade Commission has finalized a settlement with Google after the tech giant’s breach of federal data privacy laws for children. The multimillion-dollar settlement, which was supported by the agency’s three Republicans and opposed by its two Democrats, found that YouTube illegally targets children while claiming that its services are not meant for users under the age of 13.

The settlement follows the FTC’s announcement on Wednesday that the agency is inviting public comment on the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act in an attempt to update the regulation.

Sen. Ed Markey, D-Mass., was the original author of COPPA in 1998, and has frequently encouraged the agency to update the law for the digital age. “If the Commission is truly serious about protecting young people online, it will enforce existing protections, hold violators accountable no matter how powerful they are, and act as a forceful check against the ever-increasing appetite for children’s data,” he said.

Markey recently introduced the “COPPA 2.0” bill with Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., which would expand protections and enforcement.

Politico details alleged dysfunction at the U.S. Department of Commerce

The Commerce Department under Secretary Wilbur Ross has become increasingly dysfunctional, according to Politico. Ross is reportedly rarely in the building, fails to hold routine meetings, and is avoiding testifying to Congress.

“With our ongoing trade wars and the census looming, Commerce needs functional leadership in order to be effective, and right now they just don’t have it,” said Theo LeCompte, a former department official.

Commerce Press Secretary Kevin Manning fought back against the allegations, calling Ross “a tireless worker who is the sole decision-maker at the department” and adding that he “routinely works 12-hour days and travels often, with visits to seven countries and eight states in the last three months to advance the president’s agenda.

(Photo of Secretary Wilbur Ross by Gage Skidmore, used with permission.)

Emily McPhie was Assistant Editor with Broadband Breakfast. She studies communication design and writing at Washington University in St. Louis, where she is a news editor for campus publication Student Life. She is a founding board member of Code Open Sesame, an organization that teaches computer skills to underprivileged children in six cities across Southern California.

Broadband Mapping

FCC Speed Test App To Improve Broadband Mapping, Agency Says

The agency hopes its new speed test will inform an initiative for more accurate broadband maps.

Tim White

Published

on

April 12, 2021 – As part of the Federal Communications Commission’s effort to collect comprehensive data on broadband availability across the United States, the agency is encouraging the public to download its Speed Test app, it announced Monday.

The FCC is using data collected from the app as part of the Measuring Broadband America program. The app provides a way for consumers to test the performance of their mobile and in-home broadband networks. In addition to showing network performance test results to the user, the app provides the test results to the FCC while protecting the privacy and confidentiality of program volunteers. It is available on the major app stores.

“To close the gap between digital haves and have nots, we are working to build a comprehensive, user-friendly dataset on broadband availability,” Acting FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel said in a statement. “Expanding the base of consumers who use the FCC Speed Test app will enable us to provide improved coverage information to the public and add to the measurement tools we’re developing to show where broadband is truly available throughout the United States.”

The network coverage and performance information gathered from the Speed Test data will help to inform the commission’s efforts to collect more accurate and granular broadband deployment data. The app will also be used in the future for consumers to challenge provider-submitted maps when the Broadband Data Collection systems become available.

The FCC has been working to improve its broadband mapping system from Form 477 for several years. Development of the Digital Opportunity Data Collection system began in August 2019, and Rosenworcel created a task force in February 2021 to advance that system. On April 7, the agency announced May 7 as the date for establishing the Digital Opportunity Data Collection.

Continue Reading

Broadband Mapping

Closing Digital Divide Starts With Accurate Maps, Says Gigi Sohn

Samuel Triginelli

Published

on

Screenshot of Gigi Sohn from the webinar

March 15, 2021 – Gigi Sohn, former president of advocacy group Public Knowledge, said authorities at the Federal Communications Commission and the states need to start with good broadband maps to see where connectivity gaps exist.

“Start at square one, and that is with good data and good maps,” said Sohn, who was speaking at a virtual LGBT Bar Association event on March 10. “Right now, the data the FCC is using to determine where there is broadband and where there is not is grossly inaccurate.”

Good policy cannot be done with bad maps, she said, but she added progress is being made with Congress’ passing of the Broadband DATA Act and the FCC receiving than $98 million to deploy mapping. However, she noted that the FCC is moving “a little slower than she would prefer” to build these maps.

In December, the FCC awarded $9.2 billion in funding from the first round of the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund. Sohn said, however, that the money was doled out with bad maps.

She said part of the problem is that different federal agencies are lacking coordination with maps, which creates duplicate decisions and more bureaucracy.

One solution lies in getting the state agencies involved. “The states cannot be left out of the calculation. There must need to be a blueprint to where the funding is going to go so there is no duplication and everybody can be served,” said Sohn.

“Unfortunately, because it is taking the FCC so long to build these maps, the states are doing by themselves,” she added.

Georgia and Maine, for example, are beginning to go it alone with their own broadband maps.

“I do believe the state maps are going to be more granular than what the federal government is going to come up with,” Sohn said.

Continue Reading

Broadband Data

New Broadband Mapping Fabric Will Help Unify Geocoding Across the Broadband Industry, Experts Say

Tim White

Published

on

Photo of Lynn Follansbee from October 2019 by Drew Clark

March 11, 2021 – The Federal Communications Commission’s new “fabric” for mapping broadband service across America will not only help collect more accurate data, but also unify geocoding across the broadband industry, industry experts said during a Federal Communications Bar Association webinar Thursday.

Broadband service providers are not geocoding experts, said Lynn Follansbee of US Telecom, and they don’t know where all the people are.

The new fabric dataset is going to be very useful to get a granular look at what is and what is not served and to harmonize geocoding, she said.

AT&T’s Mary Henze agreed. “We’re a broadband provider, we’re not a GIS company,” she said. Unified geocode across the whole field will help a lot to find missing spots in our service area, she said.

The new Digital Opportunity Data Collection fabric is a major shift from the current Form 477 data that the FCC collects, which has been notoriously inaccurate for years. The effort to improve broadband mapping has been ongoing for years, and in 2019 US Telecom in partnership with CostQuest and other industry partners created the fabric pilot program.

That has been instrumental in lead to the new FCC system, panelists said. It is called a “fabric” dataset because it is made up of other datasets that interlace like fabric, Follansbee explained.

The fabric brings new challenges, especially for mobile providers, said Chris Wieczorek of T-Mobile. With a whole new set of reporting criteria to fill out the fabric, it will lead to confusion for consumers, and lots of work for the new task force, he said.

Henze said that without the fabric, closing the digital divide between those with broadband internet and those without has been impossible.

Digital Opportunity Data Collection expected to help better map rural areas

The new mapping can help in rural areas where the current geolocation for a resident may be a mailbox that is several hundred feet or farther away from the actual house that needs service, Follansbee said.

Rural areas aren’t the only places that will benefit, though. It can also help in dense urban areas where vertical location in a residential building is important to getting a good connection, said Wieczorek.

The fabric will also help from a financial perspective, because of the large amount of funding going around, said Charter Communications’ Christine Sanquist. The improved mapping can help identify where best to spend that funding for federal agencies, providers, and local governments, she said.

There is now more than $10 billion in new federal funding for broadband-related projects, with the recent $3.2 billion Emergency Broadband Benefit program as part of the Consolidated Appropriations Act in December 2020 and the new $7.6 Emergency Connectivity Fund part of the American Rescue Plan that President Joe Biden signed into law Thursday.

The new FCC task force for implementing the new mapping system was created in February 2021, and is being led by , led by Jean Kiddoo at the FCC. No specific dates have been set yet for getting the system operational.

Continue Reading

Recent

Signup for Broadband Breakfast

Get twice-weekly Breakfast Media news alerts.
* = required field

Trending