Broadband maps no good? Maybe try something new!

Multichannel News reports…

Rep. Mike Doyle (D-Pa.) said that a lot of ISPs, “for whatever reason,” claim they have service where they don’t, something he said everyone knows “has been going on for years.”
He said that since Democrats and Republicans agree the maps aren’t good, the FCC would just be throwing $20 million out the window by starting to give out most of the Rural Development Opportunities Fund (RDOF) subsidy money.

I have recently hit that stage of COVID crisis where I just roll my eyes and say “just fix it” about everything. Lightbulbs that have been burned out for weeks are now fixed; I have pictures on several walls. I threw out unmatched socks. Maps been wrong for decades? Fix ‘em.

We don’t need to know why those maps are wrong – just like I don’t how the lightbulb blew out. We just need to find a new way to measure actual availability. Throw out those unmatched socks and start again. And guess what – in Minnesota we are working on a new way to do that.

In May (2020), GEO Partners presented their mapping solution to the MN Broadband Task Force. (See their presentation below.) They have a way to track speeds through speed tests from folks in the field. Are speed tests perfect? No – a poor local network or old computer can impact a test. Yes – customer may not choose highest tier service. So the answer is you have to get as many people as possible taking the tests. Everyone in my zip code getting 50/50 and I’m at 10/1? Maybe I need to look at my home equipment. The provider in the area sells 50/50 and everyone in my zip code gets 10/1? We need to consider actual speeds delivered and/or cost.

We could even balance this info with the maps created from 477 forms, which means provider input. A check and balance system!

So what would it take?  In Minnesota, GEO Partners are currently working with a few communities (St Louis, Koochiching and Itasca Counties). They have been talking with the Blandin Foundation and others about offering a statewide solution if communities are interested and interested in paying. (Let Association of Minnesota Counties know if you are a county that wants to know more.)

The technology solution is just one piece; the maps, as indicted above, are most valuable when a critical mass of community members participate. So there needs to be a push (local or statewide) to get people to take the test. And then you need people to analyze, assess and share the info once the maps and data are available.

I don’t want to offer this as the only solution – but it certainly seems to one a possible solution for an issue that has been discussed often:

This entry was posted in Building Broadband Tools, MN, Policy by Ann Treacy. Bookmark the permalink.

About Ann Treacy

Librarian who follows rural broadband in MN and good uses of new technology (blandinonbroadband.org), hosts a radio show on MN music (mostlyminnesota.com), supports people experiencing homelessness in Minnesota (elimstrongtowershelters.org) and helps with social justice issues through Women’s March MN.

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