From school kids working on their homework to farmers working in their fields, broadband service has become a critical part of everyday life for every American.

But high-speed internet service is still only a dream for many rural communities. One issue is broadband mapping. In many parts of the country, the broadband coverage maps you can find online are flat out wrong.

“It means if we don’t know where the gap is in service we can’t serve it,” said Lynn Follansbee of U-S Telecom. Follansbee says their first-of-its-kind pilot program found significant flaws in current broadband maps.

Follansbee says in Virginia for example, inaccurate about 50 percent of the time. And that’s preventing communities from getting the necessary funding to improve service.

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai says his agency uses the maps to distribute funding. “If an entire census block is considered served when only one house actually gets broadband that doesn’t do anyone any favors,” said Pai.

Earlier this month the FCC approved changes to the way it determines where money for broadband service goes. That includes upgrades to their data collection systems.
Pai adds, “To include crowdsourcing so the third parties, American consumers can let us know if the maps are inaccurate.”

Pai also says the FCC is working with federal, state and local lawmakers and other stakeholders on legislation to improve the accuracy of broadband maps. Follansbee believes their findings can provide a pathway to finding solutions. Follansbee says, “Well if you know where all the Americans are then service providers can plan to build to them.”

Lawmakers say closing the digital divide is a top priority and plan to have hearings on broadband mapping when they return next month.