May 11, 2017

Manchin Introduces Bipartisan Bill to Expand Broadband Deployment Using Accurate Coverage Maps

The “Rural Wireless Access Act of 2017” requires the FCC to ensure their broadband coverage maps reflect the real-world experiences of consumers in rural America

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senators Joe Manchin (D-WV), Roger Wicker (R-MS), Brian Schatz (D-HI), Deb Fischer (R-NE) and Jerry Moran (R-KS) today introduced the Rural Wireless Access Act of 2017. This legislation would require the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to collect broadband coverage data that is valid, consistent, and robust. This standardized data is necessary to ensure that policies to expand broadband deployment accurately target the unserved and underserved communities and account for the mobile coverage experience of those living in the most remote parts of the country.

“While Congress has mandated that consumers in rural America must have access to comparable services, there is still much work to be done to make this a reality in West Virginia,” Senator Manchin said. “This legislation is an important step towards ensuring our ongoing efforts to close the broadband gap are guided by a realistic understanding of the mobile broadband coverage currently available to rural consumers. We must target the areas that remain in need of this critical support and deliver on the promise of universal service.”

“I have consistently expressed concern that FCC’s data does not reflect the real mobile broadband experience of consumers in rural America,” Senator Wicker said. “This bill would address that problem by directing the Commission to improve the accuracy of the data it collects.  This is an important step to ensure federal funds are spent on deploying broadband in communities that truly need it.”

“We can’t close the digital divide if we don’t know where the problem is,” Senator Schatz said. “This bill will help us understand which communities still have bad wireless broadband coverage, so that we can move ahead and fix it.”

“The current broadband mapping system isn’t working. It’s leaving too many of our nation’s rural communities without the connectivity they need for success. The bipartisan Rural Wireless Access Act we are introducing today will help improve the collection and accuracy of wireless coverage data. Gaining more reliable information will play a pivotal role in expanding coverage to our rural areas, which will help more Nebraska families access the broadband service they need,” Senator Fischer said.

“Millions of rural Americans in Kansas and many other states depend on the promise of mobile broadband buildout efforts, and this critical expansion depends on the accuracy of current coverage data and uniformity in how it is collected,” said Senator Moran. “As we work to close the broadband gap, our providers must have standardized, clear data so they can plan out ways to reach communities most in need of access.”

Other original cosponsors include Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Gary Peters (D-MI). This bill would:

  • Direct the FCC to establish a methodology to:
  • Ensure that wireless coverage data is collected in a consistent and robust way
  • Improve the validity and reliability of wireless coverage data
  • Increase the efficiency of wireless coverage data collection