Service providers have told the federal government where they offer fast Internet. Now all the customers have to do is check their work.
The Federal Communications Commission recently released interactive mapping tool which indicates the availability of Internet service at individual addresses as reported by service providers. It’s the most up-to-date and granular map of where high-speed service is and isn’t offered, and will be used to provide billions of dollars in federal aid to expand access.
The Public Service Commission is urging residents and businesses to “make the FCC look bad” by checking for accuracy and filing challenges.
“An accurate map showing broadband availability in our state is critical to ensuring Wisconsin receives our fair share of federal funding,” said PSC Chair Rebecca Cameron Valk. “Local leaders and members of the public know their communities best, which is why we strongly encourage them to get involved in the Broadband Mapping Challenge process.”
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The map will be used to direct about $42.5 billion in Broadband Equity, Access and Deployment (BEAD) funds authorized by the bipartisan infrastructure act to help expand service to hard-to-reach areas.
The PSC expects Wisconsin to receive between $700 million and $1.1 billion, depending largely on the final maps. The agency estimated it would cost about $1.4 billion to make high-speed Internet available to about 650,000 residents currently out of reach.
Users can go broadbandmap.gov: and zoom in to see the availability of different types of services at more than 2.3 million individual addresses and submit challenges if the information is incorrect.
PSC already suhas faced more than 7,000 challenges based on missing homes and businesses, but state director of broadband and digital capital Alyssa Kenny said residents are the ones who know best.
“Sometimes we don’t know if it’s a barn or a house.” Kenny said: “Do both need access?”
Customers can also challenge a map based on availability.
In some cases, the map shows that 25/3 Mbps service is offered, but when customers call, the provider says it’s not available or will cost more than the standard installation fee, sometimes thousands of dollars. Otherwise, the service technician never shows up.
“That’s information we just don’t haveKenny said. “They are really challenges that are best done by individuals“.
Kenney said the new map is a significant improvement from the previous version, which tracked service by census block and tended to overestimate availability, especially in sparsely populated rural areas. Those maps showed the service being offered over a large area when it might be available to just one or two homes.
“This is a really strong coreKenny said. “This is the first iteration of what will likely take several years and several rounds to get right.“.
But there are drawbacks.
For example, the map includes technologies such as satellite service, which can be very expensive and not always reliable, but is technically available to 98% of all residents.
“You have to be able to afford a satellite,” said Doug King, a consultant who works from his home near Mount Horeb in Perry. “When you change the settings to the more affordable cable/fiber option, most of the parts here go dark.”
King, who has been fighting with TDS Telecommunications since 2009 to improve the city’s service, said the map gets “more silly” because homes served at 25/3 Mbps are actually much slower. — if customers do not agree to bundle service with cable and telephone service.
Kenny would like to see future versions of the map reflect that reality.
“This map is focused on accessibility,” Kenney said. “It’s not performance and it’s not affordability. That’s a great first step. We would like to see how people really feel in their own home. And what is it worth?”
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