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Globe Newswire

A Plan to Improve the FCC's Data-Mapping

Bowling Green, Ky., May 17, 2017 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- A bipartisan group of U.S. Senators has filed a bill that would require the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to collect accurate and up-to-date data on wireless broadband coverage, according to a report in the online publisher Global Affairs. Dubbed the Rural Wireless Act of 2017, the bill would help provide access to families, businesses, schools, agricultural producers, and others in rural areas by ensuring current mobile broadband coverage data is correct.

“Having an accurate assessment of which rural areas are most in need of wireless broadband coverage is critical to closing the digital divide, but the availability of broadband coverage can be difficult to assess,” Senator Gary Peters (D-MI) told Global Affairs. “I’m proud to join my colleagues in introducing this bipartisan bill to strengthen data collection for wireless broadband coverage so we can best direct federal resources to the places where it needs to be improved the most, helping rural Michigan residents start businesses, access educational resources, and stay connected with the world.”

Using a combination of broadband mapping processes, field validation methodologies, and public feedback, Connected Nation (CN) has worked for nearly two decades to bring better definition to America’s broadband landscape. Connected Nation has partnered with local, state, and federal leaders and Internet Service Providers (ISP) across the country, and in states like Michigan, to ensure no one is left on the wrong side of the digital divide. “Having good data is where everything starts,” said Tom Ferree, CEO of CN. “There is no way for a county commissioner, much less an FCC commissioner, to know what really needs to be done until accurate data is collected and analyzed. For that reason, Connected Nation has always relied on a team of skilled broadband engineers and GIS analysts to not only map where broadband is and where it isn’t, but in also determining that where access does exist, is it truly to today’s requirements for speed and reliability. These additional qualitative measures must be in place to further ensure that we are not effectively leaving families and businesses out of opportunities for improved economics, better education, and even regular healthcare.”

“The broadband mapping methodologies that we have developed and continue to evolve allow us to pinpoint the areas that are consistently being left out,” said Ashley Hitt, Director of GIS Services for CN. “For mobile wireless coverage, we’ve been able to collect and analyze very detailed data for a number of carriers across the country that not only show the service gaps, but help both local officials and the ISPs visualize where expansion efforts should be focused.”

The CN subsidiary, Connect Michigan, found 44 percent of working-age Michigan adults rely on Internet access to seek or apply for jobs, while 22 percent further their education by taking online classes. But, it all starts with accurate data mapping, which is so important. A fact U.S. Senators Gary Peters (D-MI), Joe Manchin (D-WV), Roger Wicker (R-MS), Brian Schatz (D-HI), Deb Fischer (R-NE), Jerry Moran (R-KS), and Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) each acknowledged this week when they introduced the Rural Access bill.

“Millions of rural Americans in Kansas and many other states depend on the promise of mobile broadband buildout efforts, and this critical expansion depends on the accuracy of current coverage data and uniformity in how it is collected,” Senator Moran told Global Affairs. “As we work to close the broadband gap, our providers must have standardized, clear data so they can plan out ways to reach communities most in need of access.”

“We can’t close the digital divide if we don’t know where the problem is,” Senator Schatz said. “This bill will help us understand which communities still have bad wireless broadband coverage, so that we can move ahead and fix it.”

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