The FCC announced today that it’s started soliciting first-hand accounts from people who are forced to rely on crappy internet. This new initiative is part of the FCC’s Broadband Data Collection program, and the agency hopes that by collecting information directly from consumers, it will be better equipped to “enhance the accuracy of its existing broadband maps.”
“Far too many Americans are left behind in access to jobs, education, and healthcare if they do not have access to broadband,” acting FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel said in a statement announcing the initiative. “Collecting data from consumers who are directly affected by the lack of access to broadband will help inform the FCC’s mapping efforts and future decisions about where service is needed.”
Anyone who wants to tell the FCC about how bad their internet sucks can use this form to talk about any internet-related woes. ISP throttling your internet? Write it down. ISP won’t upgrade your ancient DSL service? Write it down. Don’t have internet at all because you live in a rural area and HughesNet is too damn expensive? Write it all down.
The FCC says this new website will also become an informational hub for the Broadband Data Collection program, a sort of one stop shop for consumers and industry stakeholders to keep tabs on what’s happening in the world of home internet. And once the FCC has collected enough personal anecdotes, the agency will provide information on its yet to be established new Broadband Data Collection reporting systems.
On one hand, this seems like a refreshing change of pace compared to how the FCC did things under the previous administration. But at the same time, there’s already loads of anecdotal evidence out there about how the nation’s broadband coverage and speeds are lagging. The media, various organizations, and data companies have already reported on the situation and those reports would point the FCC in the right direction.
BroadbandNow, for instance, has an in-depth map showing every census block in the U.S. that does not have terrestrial broadband provider. Fixing the reporting loophole in form 477—which allowed ISPs to report that an entire census block was covered by their service even if only one home in that census block actually subscribed to that service—was a start. But the FCC used that flawed data as a basis for ISPs to bid in its Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF) auction last year, which prompted municipal broadband providers and electric co-ops to question if the grant money went to the right companies. Not to mention previous RDOF auction winners haven’t been able to provide rural America with internet in the time frame they said they would.
There’s also a bit of irony in directing those who are “directly affected by the lack of access to broadband” to an online form as the sole means of telling the FCC how the lack of access to broadband affects their lives. Come on, FCC. You can do better than this half-assed attempt to figure out the real number of people in the U.S. who don’t have reliable access to internet and how that affects them.