Maryland congressional delegation pushes for better high-speed internet access



WASHINGTON (April 12, 2023)—A group of Maryland lawmakers, including Democratic Sens. Ben Cardin and Chris Van Hollen, has urged the Federal Communications Commission to improve broadband mapping data accuracy for the state.

"Guaranteeing all Americans access to affordable, reliable, high-speed internet is a shared goal, and we appreciate the FCC's commitment to this endeavor," the lawmakers said in a letter Tuesday to the FCC. "To that end, we urge your agency to update and improve its broadband mapping data based on the feedback from our state's broadband office."

Joining Cardin and Van Hollen on the letter were Maryland Democratic Reps. Steny Hoyer, Dutch Ruppersberger, John Sarbanes, Kweisi Mfume, Jamie Raskin, David Trone and Glenn Ivey.

The FCC is developing a national broadband map, which the lawmakers called "a crucial tool for understanding the state of broadband access in the country." Broadband most commonly refers to the accessibility of high-speed internet resources.

The recommendation by Maryland lawmakers to update the FCC's national broadband map data is based on comments made by the Maryland Office of Statewide Broadband, which found approximately 3,800 addresses incorrectly identified as serviceable by internet service providers compared to the state's information on unserved locations, according to the letter.

As required by the Broadband Deployment Accuracy and Technological Availability Act, the FCC's broadband map will provide insight into which areas are better served with high-speed internet.

The national map also will be used to determine how much each state needs in federal funding to increase connectivity.

Funding comes from the Broadband, Equity, Access, and Deployment program, which provides $42 billion to implement high-speed internet access and is part of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act signed into law in 2021 by President Joe Biden.

Maryland will receive base funding of $100 million from BEAD, and the accuracy of FCC mapping will impact equitable broadband funding.

Funding will go towards deploying high-speed internet networks, developing digital skills training programs, connecting with communities without access and improving digital inclusion, according to the lawmakers' letter.

"Inaccurate data will result in unfair funding allocations," the lawmakers said. "As such, we ask the FCC to consider reviewing additional data from states through the end of March."

Errors observed by the OSB found that inaccurate mapping data primarily impacts households in Western Maryland and the state's Eastern Shore.

"For many, particularly in urban and suburban areas, the high cost of broadband has prevented them from acquiring the service," the lawmakers said. "Families in rural areas … face greater distances to existing broadband infrastructure."

The national broadband map lists Hughes Network, Viasat, T-Mobile, Verizon and Comcast as Maryland's top five high-speed internet providers.

"We look forward to working with (the FCC) to consider whether current data collection efforts are sufficient to address mapping issues and whether additional legislative action is needed to incorporate other variables into the FCC's collection efforts," the lawmakers said.

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