Microsoft calls out U.S. government for bad mapping of broadband data access

As homes across the United States becomes ever so more connected via tablets, laptops and smart devices, access to fast broadband internet has become a big issue. The FCC currently maintains that only 25 million Americans don’t have access to broadband internet, but Microsoft is now challenging the number. The company is claiming that more than half of the U.S. population — or 162.8 million people — do not use the internet at the broadband speed of 25 Mbps.

According to Microsoft, the discrepancy between its own anonymized data and the FCC data is due to ways that the FCC collects data for broadband mapping. First, Microsoft claims that the form 477 sent by ISPs to the FCC to help collect broadband data is too broad. A simple “yes” answer to the “providing or could … without an extraordinary commitment of resources provide broadband service to an area” question on the form is used to indicate if an area of the U.S. is covered by broadband internet. Second, Microsoft holds that the FCC’s data on broadband access is not location specific. For instance, if one person has access to broadband, the entire block is counted as having service.

As an example of FCC broadband mapping, Microsoft cites two communities in the United States. In Ferry County, Washington, the FCC reports that 100% of residents have broadband internet access. However, according to Microsoft’s data collected as part of improving its services, only 2% of residents actually have broadband. Additionally, in Tishomingo County, Michigan, the FCC reports that roughly 97.1% of residents have broadband internet access, but Microsoft’s data shows a number of only 3.6 percent.

“These data sets are far closer to the mark then the broadband access data reported by the FCC and leave us with the inescapable conclusion that today there exists no accurate, comprehensive, and public estimate of broadband coverage in the United States, ” said Microsoft.

To help address this issue, Microsoft is calling on the FCC to remove the “could provide” from form 477. Additionally, Microsoft wants the FCC to use both availability and actual usage and subscription data in its mapping. Finally, Microsoft is calling on the FCC to fix availability data collection and reporting challenges before releasing new broadband reports.

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