Colorado challenges 13,000 speed inaccuracies
A federal effort to map out and better understand who in America has decent internet and who doesn’t is already being challenged by those in the know, including the Colorado Broadband Office, which has filed 13,000 challenges to the data.
The card is only a few weeks old.
And the state isn’t done challenging the data collected by the Federal Communications Commission, said Brandy Reitter, executive director of the state’s broadband office.
“Thirteen thousand is a lot, but probably doesn’t include all missing locations,” Reitter said. “We continue to submit missing and inaccurate locations to the FCC. Most of what’s missing is located in higher-density areas of the state that have seen the most growth in recent years. We will continue to identify these locations until the FCC maps are accurate. It is an ongoing process.”
The map is also preliminary and its accuracy could help states like Colorado get millions in federal infrastructure grants. It’s also the start of a major FCC overhaul to improve the accuracy of federal broadband maps. The old map will count an entire census block, even if only one home has internet speed of at least 25 megabits down and 3 up. This has resulted in the vast majority of Colorado having adequate broadband.
Look right? In the Federal Communications Commission’s new preliminary broadband map released in November 2022, the blue indicates full broadband coverage while the green hexagons show mobile broadband service. The white hexagons indicate the unserved or underserved communities. But note, there are no white hexagons in Colorado. You can check your address and challenge the FCC’s classification of your home at broadbandmap.fcc.gov
“The problem is that the FCC’s maps previously relied on information that didn’t paint the whole picture of who has and who doesn’t have the Internet,” FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel said in a statement announcing the new map. was announced. “The net result was maps that were overly optimistic, lacked location-specific information, and subsequently masked gaps in coverage.”
But the FCC knows the new map may not be accurate, so it’s asking consumers to tune in, too. The “pre-production draft” map, available online at broadbandmap.fcc.gov, allows consumers to challenge inaccuracies for their home by pressing the “Challenge Location” button.
Here’s the FCC video showing how to challenge the broadband status of an address:
“Individuals who see that the information on the maps does not match what they know from their lived experience will be able to submit challenges, or request corrections, directly through the map interface,” added Rosenworcel.
The FCC is accepting challenges until January 13. But a big reason to get the data right is that $42.5 billion is at stake. Called BEAD, which is short for Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment, the federal program plans to invest money to build infrastructure and upgrade service in unserved or underserved areas with prioritization for fiber-based Internet that offers gigabit speeds, or 1 000 megabits.
If regions aren’t counted correctly, they could miss out on attracting federal dollars to improve Internet service, said Anna Read, senior officer at The Pew Charitable Trusts Broadband Access.
“Each state gets a $100 million baseline, but the remaining funding will be allocated based on a formula, which will be based on these new maps and the number of unserved locations in those states,” Read said.
Other states are also taking steps to improve their funding prospects. New York challenged 31,000 addresses. Pennsylvania hosts webinars to encourage residents to challenge locations with incorrect internet data. Hawaii launched an effort this week to appeal to residents to help provide Internet service to help the state receive up to $250 million more than its allocation, news website Honolulu Civil Beat reports.
“The accuracy of those maps and an accurate representation of unserved locations is very important to the funding awards,” Read said.
For the new map, the FCC asked Internet providers to share the details of the areas they serve. But the map is limited to what Internet providers have shared about available service and “does not include factors such as quality or reliability of service or pricing,” Reitter pointed out.
Some rural broadband advocates said the maps are “pretty inaccurate” and the FCC is relying on local governments to fix the problem.
“My house is reported to be served by a wireless company that has told the FCC it can do 1,000/1,000 Mbps. When I looked at their website, they wanted to charge $100+ for 2 or 3 Mbps connections,” said Christopher Mitchell, director of the Community Broadband Networks at the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, which has provided guidance to many Colorado communities about what it takes to build their own broadband services. “The FCC has not eradicated ghost services and I’ll be curious how many challenges it will take to fix them because the FCC offers no real penalties for ISPs who simply lie about their coverage.”
Even internet providers are at a loss.
“Overall, the FCC map shows the state as well covered, which most Coloradans know is not the reality. Part of this mismatch has to do with the way the 182-acre hexagon blocks are created,” said Stacie McDonald, a spokeswoman for Visionary Broadband, which provides fiber-based Internet service in Gunnison and Kremmling and is adding service in Cañon City, Lake City, Marble , Pagosa Springs and Walden.
“For example, our employee has a 200 Mbps connection at his home, so their entire 182-acre hexagon shows 200 Mbps, which is not the case,” McDonald continued. “Along with ISPs, citizens can also report their coverage, which could help Colorado get their full BEAD allocation, as it is based on the number of unserved locations.”
Colorado is also aiming for faster speeds for everyone in the state. The old FCC preference of 25 Mbps down and 3 up just isn’t good enough anymore, Reitter said, especially after students and workers stuck at home during COVID find themselves competing for bandwidth to get through an online class or video conference.
Moving forward in Colorado will include unserved communities with download speeds below 100 megabits and 20 above. About 14% of the state is considered unserved or underserved at less than 100/20 Mbps, and that includes urban areas like the Denver metro area.
But Reitter said she needs to hear from the underserved Coloradans, who can share what’s actually happening at home.
“While the FCC maps are an important resource, they only show reported broadband availability from ISPs that chose to provide their data,” she said. “(We) need help from the public to understand what is being advertised as available to customers versus what they are actually receiving as far as speed and service at their location.”
This story is from The Colorado Sun, a journalist-owned news outlet based in Denver and covering the state. For more, and to support The Colorado Sun, visit coloradosun.com. The Colorado Sun is a partner in the Colorado News Conservancy, owner of Colorado Community Media.