WISPA Welcomes MAPS Act Bill and Mapping Discussion, But Improvements Can Be Made
Washington, DC, November 19, 2019 – Today, the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee held a full committee markup of, among other pieces of legislation, H.R. 4227, the “Mapping Accuracy Promotes Services Act’’ or the “MAPS Act.” The MAPS Act makes it unlawful to submit inaccurate information on the availability or quality of broadband internet access service coverage or data to the FCC as it compiles its new broadband coverage maps. The MAPS Act focuses on the collection of “quality of service’’ (“QoS”) information, defining that as download/upload speeds, and latency of a provider’s broadband internet access service.
“We like that Congress has brought focus to this issue, and with other efforts – such as our own mapping pilot, which looks to gather granular and accurate data on where broadband is and isn’t – the MAPS Act is welcome news,” noted Claude Aiken, president and CEO of WISPA. “When broadband is more accurately understood and mapped, policymakers can better guide where broadband needs to go, maximizing tax dollars spent to eradicate the digital divide.”
The MAPS Act seeks to address some of the FCC’s current broadband mapping deficiencies, working to improve the information deficit that plagues today’s maps, and, consequently, the subsidies that flow from that data. Over the summer, WISPA and its industry partners completed a pilot mapping initiative for the FCC, which, through the creation of a broadband serviceable location fabric, provides laser-like detail needed to comprehensively understand where broadband is and isn’t. While the MAPS Act is compatible with much of this work, the bill could be improved. Though the bill does not require the FCC to collect any specific information, inclusion of QoS information – such as latency – strongly suggests that such data should be collected by the FCC. Unfortunately, QoS metrics like latency are hard to measure and only create new hurdles to the expansion of broadband into areas that lack it.
“Yes, the MAPS Act should prohibit the submission of bad or false broadband mapping data,” said Aiken. He added, however, that “latency does not define availability, which is what good mapping is all about. A focus there misdirects valuable resources of small providers who, though they have a strong self-interest to comply with the FCC requirements, are struggling to just to keep up with and afford the paperwork.”
Aiken cautioned, “A requirement, such as gathering network latency information, might actually lead to under-reporting, which serves no one in this important quest to more accurately map broadband in America.”
Good broadband maps will help all Americans no matter where they live get online. “Good data is essential to those efforts, and WISPA stands ready to help Congress and the FCC obtain all that is necessary so our broadband maps can truly help unserved and underserved Americans get the broadband they need to be safe, healthy and prosperous,” stated Aiken.
WISPA’s approximately 800 members are composed of fixed Wireless Internet Service Providers (WISPs) and the industry that supports fixed wireless broadband, including equipment suppliers, support services, and other components needed to run a successful business. Our members, and WISPs, in general, provide broadband access to over 4 million residential and business customers, often in exclusively rural areas.