Crowdsourced Data Critical to Identify Underserved Communities, Lawmakers Hear

The FCC has added crowdsourced data to its repertoire for accurate broadband maps.

Crowdsourced Data Critical to Identify Underserved Communities, Lawmakers Hear
Photo of Greg Guice during the hearing

WASHINGTON, March 17, 2022 – Crowdsourcing data for accurate wireless broadband maps is critical to identifying underserved or unserved communities, said a broadband advocacy group at a congressional hearing Wednesday.

“We need true crowdsourcing because the opportunities for these technologies to miss communities are pretty great,” Greg Guice, the director of government affairs at Public Knowledge, said during a congressional hearing on 5G and the future in wireless technologies.

The Broadband Data Act, which became law in March 2020, “attempted to help improve how we collect data for wireline providers for our broadband maps,” said Representative Donald McEachin, D-VA. But, he continued, “it’s a little trickier with wireless providers.”

Guice said it is too often the wireless broadband “maps have relied on the theoretical propagation characteristics, which leaves a lot of communities unserved but reported as served.

“As we look at the rollout of 5G and of small cell technology that [5G] relies on, it’s going to be critical that we get that [mapping] information right, because the opportunities to miss communities in our urban sectors, as well as communities in our rural sectors, are just vastly increased,” he said.

The Federal Communications Commission, which is working to compile an updated map and recently set a late June date to begin accepting service provider data, has already began working to collect crowdsourced data – including data from consumer speed tests. Historically, the commission has relied on service provider data known as form-477 to disperse money from federal programs.

The importance of accurate broadband mapping is something that advocates have been heavily emphasizing, including LightBox vice president of government solutions Bill Price. In an interview with Broadband Breakfast, Price said that “the actual cost of deploying broadband to unserved areas depends on the accuracy of the location data you have got…Think about building highways without knowing all the property, all the zoning, all the owners – all the details you need to build a highway.”

Popular Tags