Last month the U.S. Federal Communications Commission released an interactive map showing 4G/LTE cellular voice and data coverage in the United States from the four major providers. This is the first FCC map released under the 2020 Broadband DATA Act, which mandated better maps than the FCC has been producing in the past (previously). [The Verge]
The Verge maps the gaps in U.S. broadband coverage. “This map shows where the broadband problem is worst—the areas where the difficulty of reliably connecting to the internet has gotten bad enough to become a drag on everyday life. Specifically, the colored-in areas show US counties where less than 15 percent of households are using the internet at broadband speed, defined as 25Mbps download speed. (That’s already a pretty low threshold for calling something ‘high-speed internet,’ but since it’s the Federal Communications Commission’s standard, we’ll stick with it.)” They’re using anonymized Microsoft cloud data rather than the FCC’s numbers (which don’t have a good track record reflecting real-world speeds).
In February the FCC released a new broadband map showing the availability of high-speed internet in the United States. The previous map was apparently useless, but the new map has been coming in for its share of criticism as well because it doesn’t match the reality on the ground. Partly it’s because the map shows the number of internet providers providing service by census block whereas actual availability is more granular than that. But only partly. Techdirt’s Karl Bode says both old and new versions of the map “all-but hallucinate available options out of whole cloth while vastly over-stating the speeds available to American consumers”:
For example, I can only get access to one ISP (Comcast) at my residence in Seattle, purportedly one of the nation’s technology leaders. Yet the FCC’s new map informs me I have seven broadband options available to me. Two of these options, CenturyLink DSL and CenturyLink fiber are somehow counted twice despite neither actually being available. Three others are satellite broadband service whose high prices, high latency and low caps make them unsuitable as a real broadband option. The seventh is a fixed-wireless option that doesn’t actually serve my address.