Rosenworcel: FCC Data Collection Update Coming This Week

The agency first circulated the update in May after taking comments earlier this year.

Rosenworcel: FCC Data Collection Update Coming This Week
Photo by GeoJango Maps. Used with permission.

WASHINGTON, July 10, 2024 – The country’s top communications regulator is getting close to updating its broadband data collection methods and making a key decision about control of valuable spectrum for public safety organizations.

FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel said her agency is releasing an order this week aimed at improving data collection and verification for its broadband map, as well as planning to resolve an ongoing dispute over who should control the 4.9 gigahertz band “within the next several months.” 


Under the 2020 Broadband DATA Act, the FCC maintains a map composed of data on every home and business where broadband could be installed and what internet service those locations have access to. The agency updates the map twice annually with provider-reported data. 

The latest version, released May 21, shows about 6 million unserved homes and businesses, down from about 7 million in the previous count.

While the map is seen as a significant improvement over the FCC’s previous maps, some commenters have been asking the agency to require providers to back up their claimed coverage. Some rural broadband providers have alleged that wireless ISPs have overstated their service areas to the agency.

“Coming out this week, in fact, is another rulemaking from the FCC that all my colleagues supported, which asked questions about how we improve this process further,” Rosenworcel told House subcommittee lawmakers yesterday. She said the proposal would “make sure we take into account smarter approaches to things like fixed wireless and technologies that may not have been at the forefront when the Broadband DATA Act was passed by this committee.”

The text of the upcoming item hasn’t been released, but the agency announced an upcoming action in May after taking comments earlier this year. Releasing the item this week would put it ahead of the FCC’s July 18 meeting, at which commissioners will vote to approve other measures.

According to that announcement, the order “clarifies and strengthens agency audit procedures,” and “creates a process that better accounts for changes in network deployments over time.”

The item also put forward proposals including “modifications to data collection requirements based upon lessons learned, as well as enhancements to agency data validation processes in order to continue to improve the precision of the underlying [map].”

The agency accepts consumer challenges to coverage data. As a longer term measure, Rosenworcel said the FCC is looking into accepting speed tests as evidence from subscribers who claim their actual home broadband speeds are slower than what they’re paying for.

“We do accept speed tests for availability data to prove that service is present or not present,” Rosenworcel said. “With respect to the actual speeds it's more complicated, because where you place your router in your house has a huge impact on your speeds. We're looking for a statistical way to validate this so that we can use that data more comprehensively going forward.”

4.9 GHz

Rosenworcel also said the agency is looking to resolve the question of who will manage the 4.9 GHz band “within the next several months.”

The band was set aside by the FCC for local public safety organizations, and in January 2023 the agency proposed instituting a band manager to increase utilization amid increased demand for spectrum.

Some have floated the idea of handing a nationwide license for the band to FirstNet, the national network for first responders managed by the NTIA. Large wireless carriers vehemently opposed this, seeing it as a giveaway to FirstNet’s vendor AT&T. The company can use excess capacity in FirstNet spectrum for commercial purposes under its contract.

“My hope is that we can do this in the next several months,” Rosenworcel said. “But boy, lots of people are filing a lot of stuff before us. And when it comes at us fast and furious, we have to spend time looking at it and reading it carefully.”

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