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Rep. Clyde Introduces Legislation to Improve Rural Broadband Mapping for FCC Grant Funding

Our rural areas are no strangers to broadband obstacles, but this avoidable roadblock is preventing essential broadband expansion in the communities that need it most. While we wait for updated federal mapping, my legislation helps bridge the divide by providing businesses the opportunity to use a State-produced broadband distribution map.

Earlier this month, Congressman Andrew Clyde (GA-09) introduced H.R. 5512, the “Reviewing and Updating Regional And Local (RURAL) Broadband Mapping Act,” to allow federal broadband infrastructure funds to be more accurately dispersed to unserved and underserved areas in states that have published more accurate broadband deployment maps than the ones produced by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). Specifically, grant applicants would be able to substitute on Form 477 their state’s broadband deployment mapping data in lieu of the FCC’s mapping data, so long as the FCC determines the data from the state is superior to the Commission’s outdated broadband mapping data.

“It’s completely unacceptable that the FCC’s outdated mapping data often leads to businesses having their grant applications denied at no fault of their own,” said Rep. Clyde. “Our rural areas are no strangers to broadband obstacles, but this avoidable roadblock is preventing essential broadband expansion in the communities that need it most. While we wait for updated federal mapping, my legislation helps bridge the divide by providing businesses the opportunity to use a state-produced broadband distribution map. We must continue to seek solutions for securing reliable broadband internet access and benefits for rural Americans.”

Background:

Last year, President Trump signed the Broadband DATA Act into law, which requires the FCC to improve the accuracy of its broadband availability map for use in grant applications for rural areas. However, this process will take some time to develop and rural communities across our country, including in North Georgia, desperately need an interim solution.

According to a recent study conducted by BroadbandNow Research, it is estimated that the FCC’s data has an observed over-reporting error rate of approximately 21% across the United States, and in total, 42 million Americans are estimated to not have the ability to purchase broadband internet. Broadband infrastructure woes have plagued rural communities across the country for far too long, and unfortunately, those woes were only exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic and are now being strung out by the FCC’s inaction.

The RURAL Broadband Mapping Act offers a common-sense, temporary solution that is much-needed as businesses, especially small internet service providers, in rural areas cannot continue to wait around on the FCC to issue new maps so they can better serve their communities.

Georgia has already developed and released a modernized state-level broadband availability map. If H.R. 5512 were to be enacted into law, broadband internet service providers in Georgia, and other states that have similarly produced their own distribution maps, would be able to use their state's more granular maps in lieu of the FCC’s data that has observed over-reporting error rates.

Full text of H.R. 5512 can be found HERE.

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