May 31, 2019

Congressman Neguse and the Colorado Delegation Call for Increased Rural Broadband Connectivity

WASHINGTON - Following issues in Colorado and around the country, Representative Neguse and the Colorado Delegation sent a letter to Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Ajit Pai asking for immediate action to address data inaccuracies that has held Coloradan families back, preventing them from connecting to broadband internet. Led by Representative Crow, the other co-signers of the bipartisan, bicameral letter are Sens. Michael Bennet and Cory Gardner and Representatives. Ed Perlmutter, Ken Buck, and Scott Tipton. The full letter is available here.

Current broadband availability maps have resulted in the denial of much-needed broadband network funding or financing in rural communities as they are mostly based on information from internet service providers. The data are often not detailed enough to provide accurate information on an area, which leads to insufficient funding for broadband infrastructure roll out. For example, if a single household has access to broadband in a census block, which can be hundreds of square miles in some rural areas, the entire section is classified as connected and other households in this census block will lose access to funding opportunities. This affects the entire region -- potentially blocking an opportunity for rural families to connect to high-speed internet.

In Colorado, inaccurate broadband availability maps and the inability to appeal information in the maps have allowed the FCC to reject applications for funds that would have enabled internet service providers to connect more households to broadband access.

“Across Colorado, access to consistent broadband connectivity is integral for small business owners, students, families and workers. Recently, we’ve seen a variety of cases across the state resulting in inaccurate or incomplete broadband mapping which hurts rural residents ability to connect to necessary services and resources. I hope that the FCC can standardize future reporting and validation to ensure connectivity for rural residents is not interrupted or harmed,” said Representative Joe Neguse.

“Increasing broadband will ensure we can deliver VA services to our veterans, increase the competitiveness of our local businesses, and position us for the 21st-century economy.  Recent cases in Colorado are part of a systemic failure of the current system to effectively distribute federal funding for necessary broadband projects. Addressing issues of imprecise mapping and data collection will better support our communities to build for the future,” said Representative Jason Crow.

“Broadband is an important tool connecting doctors with patients, students to their homework, and gives small businesses the opportunity to grow. Today, millions of Americans still lack access to reliable broadband. This is unacceptable. We need to ensure the FCC has accurate information about broadband access so we can work to bridge the digital divide. I look forward to hearing from Chairman Pai about his efforts to improve the accuracy of the FCC’s broadband maps,” said Representative Ed Perlmutter.

“Coloradans rely on broadband to power their communities, especially on the eastern plains. Without it, we would be forced to travel hundreds of miles for work, school, medical treatment, and legal services. To better prepare for the future, we need to extend our broadband network infrastructure to our underserved rural communities in all four corners of our state,” said Representative Ken Buck.

“TCA sincerely appreciates the leadership of Rep. Jason Crow, as well as Sens. Bennet and Gardner, and Reps. Buck, Neguse, Perlmutter, and Tipton for emphasizing to the FCC the urgent need for more accurate and precise broadband maps. Too many service providers in Colorado – particularly in rural areas – are losing out on federal funding that is essential to supporting the deployment of broadband networks. Increased granularity combined with a robust challenge process will result in more reliable maps, and will allow rural local exchange carriers to provide a vital service to Coloradans who reside in the hardest to reach places. We commend the Colorado congressional delegation on their efforts to take much-needed action on this issue,”  said TCA Regulatory Director Stacey Brigham.

In part, the letter reads:

Broadband access is a vital link to a range of necessary services and resources for America’s rural residents. Not only is it an economic development tool for businesses that may be isolated from potential customers, employees, and legal services, but it broadens educational horizons for students and offers healthcare providers flexible and cost-effective care-delivery approaches. Thus, it is critical to ensure inaccurate information will not result in a denial of access to fixed or mobile broadband. A validated set of data based upon standardized methods of granular reporting will be essential to ensuring that universal service is available throughout rural America.