June 27, 2019

Anyone who has been following the broadband saga in the Twin Counties over the last year knows broadband delivery is an arduous task. For lots of underserved and unserved people, it feels like two steps have been taken back for every step forward.

U.S. Rep. Antonio Delgado, D-19, has secured a measure in appropriations legislation in Congress to address “deeply flawed broadband mapping practices.” Mapping problems occur when maps are used that indicate a specific area has access to high-speed internet service when in fact it doesn’t.

The problem arises because maps rely on provider-reported data at the census-block level, and the resulting maps tend to overstate broadband coverage in rural communities. In other words, whenever the maps reflect where broadband is, it’s usually somewhere else.

In what seems like an instant of time, rural broadband mapping measures are outdated. These poor mapping methodologies are leaving our rural communities behind before the communities knew they were in a race.

Deputy Greene County Administrator Warren Hart said the ability to break down areas that don’t have broadband access would make connecting the entire county easier. Accessing federal data at the street level for broadband, meaning the addresses from intersection to intersection would help.

But in another inexplicable move, the data is only available by census block. This means that if one household is served in a geographic unit in a census block, it shows that the whole census block is serviced, and that is inaccurate.

Delgado, Hart and F. Michael Tucker, president and CEO of the Columbia Economic Development Corporation, are correct when they say progress is being made but a lot more work has to be done as some areas remain unconnected.

We want to think the state’s significant investment in broadband and additional assistance from the federal government would strengthen the ability of rural counties to expand broadband to both businesses and residents.

Considerable resources have been spent to develop maps of areas that are served by broadband, but keeping them current with accurate, real-time information has proved to be a daunting task.

Columbia-Greene Media