EFF makes the case for symmetrical, high speed internet

The Electronic Frontier Foundation makes the case for symmetrical, high speed internet…

Congress is about to make critical decisions about the future of internet access and speed in the United States. It has a potentially once-in-a-lifetime amount of funding to spend on broadband infrastructure, and at the heart of this debate is the minimum speed requirement for taxpayer-funded internet. It’s easy to get overwhelmed by the granularity of this debate, but ultimately it boils down to this: cable companies want a definition that requires them to do and give less. One that will not meet our needs in the future. And if Congress goes ahead with their definition—100 Mbps of download and 20 of upload (100/20 Mbps)—instead of what we need—100 Mbps of download and 100 Mbps of upload (100/100 Mbps)—we will be left behind.

In order to explain exactly why these two definitions mean so much, and how truly different they are, we’ll evaluate each using five basic questions below. But the too long, didn’t read version is this: in essence, building a 100/20 Mbps infrastructure can be done with existing cable infrastructure, the kind already operated by companies such as Comcast and Charter, as well as with wireless. But raising the upload requirement to 100 Mbps—and requiring 100/100 Mbps symmetrical services—can only be done with the deployment of fiber infrastructure. And that number, while requiring fiber, doesn’t represent the fiber’s full capacity, which makes it better suited to a future of internet demand. With that said, let’s get into specifics.

The questions they use:

  1. Which Definition Will Meet Our Projected Needs in 2026 and Beyond?
  2. Which Definition Will Increase Upload Speeds Most Cost-Effectively?
  3. Which Definition Will Deliver Gigabit Speeds?
  4. Which Definition Will Give Americans an Affordable Option That Meets Their Needs Over Time?
  5. Which Definition Makes the U.S. Globally Competitive?

I won’t do the deep dive into each question – but I will look at the first…

Which Definition Will Meet Our Projected Needs in 2026 and Beyond?

Since the 1980s, consumer usage of the internet has grown by 21% on average every single year. Policymakers should bake into their assumption that 2026 internet usage will be greater than 2021 usage. Fiber has capacity decades ahead of projected growth, which is why it is future-proof. Moreover, high-speed wireless internet will likewise end up depending on fiber, because high-bandwidth wireless towers must have equally high-bandwidth wired connections to the internet backbone.

In terms of predicted needs in 2026, OpenVault finds that today’s average use is 207 Mbps/16 Mbps. If we apply 21% annual growth, that will mean 2026 usage will be over 500Mbps down and 40Mbps up. But another crucial detail is that the upload and download needs aren’t growing at the same speeds. Upload, which the average consumer used much less than download, is growing much faster. This is because we are all growing to use and depend on services that upload data much more. The pandemic underscored this, as people moved to remote socializing, remote learning, remote work, telehealth, and many other services that require high upload speeds and capacity. And even as we emerge from the pandemic, those models are not going to go away.

Essentially, the pandemic jumped our upload needs ahead of schedule, but it does not represent an aberration. If anything, it proved the viability of remote services. And our internet infrastructure must reflect that need, not the needs of the past.

EVENT TODAY (noon) Lunch Bunch – MN speed tests and mapping

Just a reminder of today’s lunch bunch. We’re going to be talking about speed tests. I’ preparing for the discussion and ran into what appears to be a pretty good outline of speed test topics. I can hear from the experts if it is in line with their thinking. Otherwise here’s the original post about the meeting…

Speed tests connect users, providers and policymakers.

Speed tests are tools that households can use to let broadband providers and policymakers know what they are experiencing. They are used to create maps that help providers decide who needs better broadband, help policymakers decide who needs attention and people decide where to relocate homes or businesses. But what do we do when different tests show different results? What do different tests consider? And what are contributing factors?

We have a few folks on the frontlines willing to come to talk to us about the tests and we want to hear from you. What are you experiencing? Do you have questions?

Pleased to have folks from Geo Partners (Glenn Fishbine and Paul Demming) and a few providers (Travis Carter from USI) and hopefully Steve Howard from Paul Bunyan (based on availability) join us for the conversation.

Register now!

NTIA Creates First Interactive Map to Help Public See the Digital Divide across the Country

The NTIA unveils a cool new tool. I’ve showing a screenshot of MN, focusing in on Itasca County…

Today, the U.S. Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) released a new publicly available digital map that displays key indicators of broadband needs across the country. This is the first interactive, public map that allows users to explore different datasets about where people do not have quality Internet access.

The public “Indicators of Broadband Need” tool released today puts on one map, for the first time, data from both public and private sources. It contains data aggregated at the county, census tract, and census block level from the U.S. Census Bureau, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), M-Lab, Ookla and Microsoft. Speed-test data provided by M-Lab and Ookla help to illustrate the reality that communities experience when going online, with many parts of the country reporting speeds that fall below the FCC’s current benchmark for fixed broadband service of 25 Mbps download, 3 Mbps upload. This is the first map that allows users to graphically compare and contrast these different data sources.


“As we release this important data to the public, it paints a sobering view of the challenges facing far too many Americans as they try to connect to high-speed broadband and participate in our modern economy,” said U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gina M. Raimondo. “In his American Jobs Plan, President Biden has proposed a once-in-a-lifetime investment that would finally connect one hundred percent of the country to reliable and affordable high-speed broadband.”

The map also puts poverty and lack of broadband access on the same page. The dataset allows you to see where high-poverty communities are located and how that relates to internet usage patterns, as well as to a lack of computers and related equipment.  The map also shows usage patterns in tribal communities, which have historically suffered from lack of internet access. Users can toggle the separate data sets on and off to compare information, and search for specific locations, including Tribal lands and minority-serving institutions, to gain a better understanding of where broadband needs are greatest.

“Any effort to close the digital divide starts with solid data, and NTIA continues to help policymakers make more informed decisions on expanding broadband access,” said Acting NTIA Administrator Evelyn Remaley. “Now, the public can benefit from our platform to see which areas of the country still don’t have broadband at speeds needed to participate in the modern economy.”

“Broadband is no longer nice to have. It’s need to have. To ensure that every household has the internet access necessary for success in the digital age, we need better ways to accurately measure where high-speed service has reached Americans and where it has not,” said FCC Acting Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel. “The latest mapping effort by NTIA is a welcome new tool that provides valuable insight into the state of broadband across the country. Kudos to Secretary Raimondo and Acting Assistant Secretary Remaley for their leadership. The FCC looks forward to continuing our close collaboration with the Commerce Department and other federal partners to fulfill the goal of connecting 100 percent of Americans.”

NTIA also offers to state governments and federal partners a geographic information system (GIS) platform called the National Broadband Availability Map (NBAM) that provides more complex tools for analyzing broadband access, such as the ability to upload GIS files to compare proposed projects. Earlier this month, NTIA announced that Arizona, Idaho, Kansas, Maryland, Mississippi, and South Dakota have joined the growing roster of state participants in the NBAM, bringing the total number of participating states to 36. The mapping platform allows these states and others to better inform broadband projects and funding decisions.

Study finds the FCC Could Waste Up to $1B Due to Bad Map Data

Government Technology reports

It’s common knowledge that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has utilized misleading map data to measure broadband coverage and award funds, but critics don’t always cite how much taxpayer money is wasted as a result.

A Competitive Carriers Association (CCA) white paper released yesterday estimates the FCC could “improperly send” anywhere from $115 million to $1 billion to “wealthy, densely populated census blocks that have one or more service providers offering high-speed broadband.”

The money comes from the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF), which was awarded to areas in an initial phase last year based on Form 477 data, a widely criticized set of information.

It looks like the CCA was funding the same things I was finding when I dug into the maps and found that the Viking Practice Facility was listed as unserved. I don’t think there are many people that would argue the concerns with mapping – the question is will they do something about it before they invest!

Data highlights Digital Divide by localities across the Twin Cities

Patch has published articles around the Twin Cities highlighting broadband access by zip codes. It’s an interesting look at how very local the digital divide is. (I just wrote about access in Mendota Heights and should have realized more articles would follow but some days I don’t read all of the instructions before I take the test.)

Here’s the high level info from Patch:

Microsoft estimates that about 157.3 million people in the United States cannot or do not connect to the internet at broadband speeds, which is defined by the Federal Communications Commission as download speeds of 25 megabits per second and three megabits per second upload speeds.

The company gathered data by ZIP code on the connection speed of devices when they used a Microsoft service in October 2020.

And specific details by area…

In the Mendota Heights area:

  • ZIP code 55118: 94.9 percent
  • ZIP code 55120: 60.2 percent

In the Southwest Minneapolis area:

  • ZIP code 55408: 62.8 percent
  • ZIP code 55409: 40.0 percent
  • ZIP code 55410: 62.8 percent
  • ZIP code 55416: 61.3 percent
  • ZIP code 55419: 57.7 percent

In the Edina area:

  • ZIP code 55410: 62.8 percent
  • ZIP code 55416: 61.3 percent
  • ZIP code 55423: 66.2 percent
  • ZIP code 55424: 87.6 percent
  • ZIP code 55435: 70.9 percent
  • ZIP code 55436: 79.8 percent
  • ZIP code 55439: 76.6 percent

In the Lakeville area:

  • ZIP code 55044: 100.0 percent

In the Burnsville area:

  • ZIP code 55306: 30.6 percent
  • ZIP code 55337: 89.1 percent

In the Shakopee area:

  • ZIP code 55379: 76.1 percent

In the Apple Valley Rosemount area:

  • ZIP code 55068: 86.8 percent
  • ZIP code 55124: 72.2 percent

Broadband coverage in Mendota Heights varies drastically by zip code – how about your area?

Patch reports

Microsoft estimates that about 157.3 million people in the United States cannot or do not connect to the internet at broadband speeds, which is defined by the Federal Communications Commission as download speeds of 25 megabits per second and three megabits per second upload speeds.

The company gathered data by ZIP code on the connection speed of devices when they used a Microsoft service in October 2020.

In the Mendota Heights area, Microsoft provided the following information on the percent of residents who use the internet at broadband speeds at each ZIP Code.

  • ZIP code 55118: 94.9 percent

  • ZIP code 55120: 60.2 percent

Not in Mendota Heights, you can still track your coverage…

Didn’t see your ZIP code above? Search by ZIP code and distance here.

Areas in MN without access to 100Mbps and NO apparent potential for federal funding

CNS has created an interactive map that highlights areas that do not have access to 100Mbps (download) and are not in areas that are eligible for federal funding. These are areas that are going to need to hustle to get broadband deployed. These are area that might be in a good position for state grants if/when they are available.

Here’s their press release…

In light of increasing discussions of additional funding for rural broadband, Cooperative Network Service (CNS) has recently created an interactive map to help stakeholders understand which areas of the country that currently do not have access to 100Mbps download speeds.

The map shows areas that (according to the most recently released 477 data) do not currently have 100Mb download speeds AND are not within areas where federal funding mechanisms are currently funding broadband deployment (ACAM I, ACAM II, CAF II Auction, RDOF, USDA ReConnect and Community Connect).

“The goal is to have a visual to use as a starting point (knowing it’s not perfect) for the industry and various stakeholder groups to use when considering rules for upcoming broadband funding programs,” said Paul Solsrud, CNS Product Manager. “We’re seeing many new funding mechanisms to support rural broadband upgrades as a result of the pandemic, at the Federal, State, and Local levels. “If we continue to use 25Mb as the speed threshold for determining which areas get funding, we may find ourselves with excess funding.”

Acting FCC Chair has long been a proponent of higher minimum speeds, saying “We need to set audacious goals if we want to do big things. With many of our nation’s providers offering gigabit service, it’s time for the FCC to adjust its baseline upward, too. We need to reset it to at least 100 megabits per second. While we’re at it we need to revisit our thinking about upload speeds. At present, our standard is 3 megabits per second. But this asymmetrical approach is dated,” in her August 19, 2020 statement regarding the findings of the 16th Broadband Deployment Report and Order. https://docs.fcc.gov/public/attachments/FCC-20-112A1.pdf

Additionally, four Senators, in a March 4th, 2021 bipartisan letter, urge the Biden administration to invest in networks that provide symmetrical 100Mb speeds. https://www.bennet.senate.gov/public/index.cfm/press-releases?id=2C769043-69ED-426B-B30A%5B1%5D57981A4BA333

Included for reference in the interactive map is a layer of areas that are currently unserved by 25Mbps. There are many considerations and variables in creating a map like this, and this does not consider state and local planned projects, and we all know that the available datasets have drawbacks, but the “Overview and Methodology” section in the map explains what’s included and what’s not. Further, layers comparing census blocks with 0 households are included to show unserved areas that did not have at least one housing unit in the 2010 census. Click here to access the map: https://experience.arcgis.com/experience/0dfe06e58ec04e6db9c73c767ca8132b

My annoyance is that because federal funding doesn’t always require 100Mbps, this map is hiding areas that are getting federal funding but are not actually in line for getting an upgrade that will make a difference for long.

Doug Dawson asks FCC to track aspiration and actual broadband speeds

Doug Dawson has a great idea that would change how we look at broadband maps. In short, ask the ISPs to provide the range of speeds a customer can expect rather than report the best that anyone is going to see. He writes…

 An ISP that may be delivering 3 Mbps download will continue to be able to report broadband speeds of 25/3 Mbps as long as that is marketed to the public. This practice of allowing marketing speeds that are far faster than actual speeds has resulted in a massive overstatement of broadband availability. This is the number one reason why the FCC badly undercounts the number of homes that can’t get broadband. The FCC literally encourages ISPs to overstate the broadband product being delivered.

In my Twitter feed for this blog, Deb posted a brilliant suggestion, “ISPs need to identify the floor instead of the potential ceiling. Instead of ‘up to’ speeds, how about we say ‘at least’”.

There are reasons that different customers get different speeds…

It’s a real challenge for an ISPs using any of these technologies to pick a representative speed to advertise to customers – but customers want to know a speed number. DSL may be able to deliver 25/3 Mbps for a home that’s within a quarter-mile of a rural DSLAM. But a customer eight miles away might be lucky to see 1 Mbps. A WISP might be able to deliver 100 Mbps download speeds within the first mile from a tower, but the WISP might be willing to sell to a home that’s 10 miles away and deliver 3 Mbps for the same price. The same is true for the fixed cellular data plans recently being pushed by A&T, Verizon, and T-Mobile. Customers who live close to a cell tower might see 50 Mbps broadband, but customers further away are going to see a tiny fraction of that number.

We need a way to track both ends, the best and worst case scenario…

I suggest they report both the minimum “at least” speed and the maximum “up to” speed. Those two numbers will tell the right story to the public because together they provide the range of speeds being delivered in a given Census. With the FCC’s new portal for customer input, the public could weigh in on the “at least” speeds. If a customer is receiving speeds slower than the “at least” speeds, then, after investigation, the ISP would be required to lower that number in its reporting.

This dual reporting will also allow quality ISPs to distinguish themselves from ISPs that cut corners. If a WISP only sells service to customers within 5 or 6 miles of a transmitter, then the difference between its “at least” speeds and its “up to” speeds would be small. But if another WISP is willing to sell a crappy broadband product a dozen miles from the transmitter, there would be a big difference between its two numbers. If this is reported honestly, the public will be able to distinguish between these two WISPs.

This dual reporting of speeds would also highlight the great technologies – a fiber network is going to have a gigabit “at least” and “up to” speed.

The FCC asks you to take their Speed Test

From the FCC

As part of the Commission’s Broadband Data Collection effort to collect comprehensive data on broadband availability across the United States, the FCC is encouraging the public to download the FCC’s Speed Test app, which is currently used to collect speed test data as part of the FCC’s Measuring Broadband America program.  The app provides a way for consumers to test the performance of their mobile and in-home broadband networks.  In addition to showing network performance test results to the user, the app provides the test results to the FCC while protecting the privacy and confidentiality of program volunteers.

“To close the gap between digital haves and have nots, we are working to build a comprehensive, user-friendly dataset on broadband availability.  Expanding the base of consumers who use the FCC Speed Test app will enable us to provide improved coverage information to the public and add to the measurement tools we’re developing to show where broadband is truly available throughout the United States,” said Acting Chairwoman Rosenworcel.

The network coverage and performance information gathered from the Speed Test data will help to inform the FCC’s efforts to collect more accurate and granular broadband deployment data. The app will also be used in the future for consumers to challenge provider-submitted maps when the Broadband Data Collection systems become available.  More information about the app is available on the FCC website.  The FCC Speed Test App is available in the Google Play Store for Android devices, and in the Apple App Store for iOS devices.

Better broadband maps – the FCC is looking at changes

The FCC is looking to make their broadband maps better. GCN reports on the steps they are taking…

“The Commission will not only collect more data; it will collect better data,” Kiddoo said in a task force presentation. Minimum service speeds, maximum buffer sizes for fixed service along with infrastructure and drive-test data will give the FCC accurate broadband data, she said. Additionally, the commission will refine the data over time through crowdsourcing, audits and verification and enforcement actions.

“With these new data and tools, the Commission will produce vastly more granular and accurate broadband deployment maps, which in turn will allow the Commission to target Universal Service Funding more precisely and produce better data for Commission reports and analyses,” Kiddoo said.

The FCC has already brought on an expert data architect and design firm to work with the commission’s own data and IT teams to design the internal databases, systems and public-facing portals to support advanced broadband data collection and the resulting availability maps, FCC acting Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel wrote in a March 16 blog.

The commission has also issued a request for information for the creation of the broadband serviceable location fabric — a common dataset of all U.S. locations where fixed broadband internet access service can be installed — that will form the foundation for the location- or address-based reporting.

This complex, data-driven evaluation of broadband access involves building new systems, processes and supporting materials, and it will not happen overnight.

Meanwhile, the FCC is asking consumers to share their broadband experience by filling out a form on the FCC’s site. The simple form asks for basic contact information along with a three-to-five sentence description of connection problems and what could be done to solve them.

US Senate Committee meeting raises questions on speeds, needs and long term wins

RFDTV recently covered a Senate Commerce Committee that included a broadband update that seemed to cover two tricky topics, federal funding and speed goals. They used Dakota County as an example. The Committee heard from Justin Forde, the Senior Director of Government Relations at Midco who wanted to make sure that policy remained technology neutral and was concerned because other providers had received federal funding after they did for the same community. Apparently countering, Dr. Christopher Ali from the University of Virginia, seems to offer that some technologies will not meet the needs of farmers and that’s why we need to look at supply and demand. RFDTV reports

According to Forde, “A lot of farmers do not want a fiber line to the farm, they want connectivity to the entire farm. In fact, we have a farmer that has two farms, 75 miles apart. He can use fixed wireless and get connections to both of those for less than $100 dollars. The cost of running fiber to those wouldn’t be economical for us or for the federal government to serve both of those farms.”

Using a recent example from Minnesota, he explained how better agency coordination is needed to ensure federal dollars are spent wisely and where they are needed most.

“We’ve been awarded CAF 2 funding to reach areas of Dakota County in Minnesota and are fully on track for our deployment schedule, but recently we learned two other providers have been awarded CARES Act funding to serve the same areas,” Forde states. “That’s three providers awarded federal funds to serve the exact same area.”

Lawmakers also spent a significant amount of time on the question of what level of connectivity is needed.

Dr. Christopher Ali from the University of Virginia says that precision ag needs access to symmetrical 100×100 speeds.

“I’ve spent a lot of time in rural Minnesota talking to precision agriculture companies and providers; they are uploading terabytes of data and doing an incredible amount of soil analysis oftentimes in realtime, if possible if the technology is there… They need that ultra-fast symmetric upload speeds to enable them to make real-time decisions about planting,” Dr. Ali explains.

However, Forde pushed back saying that increasing the standard from 25/3 MBS to 100/100 would only reclassify some areas as unserved.

“The farms, hundreds of them in the vast agriculture area could also get over 100/20 service out in those farms surely from Midco,” Forde adds. “All of those areas, if the speed changes, would now become eligible for federal funding.”

Farmers don’t want fiber?

There’s a lot to unpack here. First the allegations that famers don’t want fiber seems strange. They certainly want fiber to the tower and I suspect they would be happy to get fiber to the farm but that costs may be a factor in their decision. One way or another they will be creating a wireless network built off a wired connection because they are doing precision agriculture, which generally means connecting lots of moving pieces. (Think of the super charged version of your kids’ various devices connecting to your home network.) And just like we’re all learning we want to best connection we can get to support those home devices, farmers feel the same.

To change or not to change broadband definitions or goals that is the question.

Dr. Ali offers that precision ag needs access to symmetrical 100/100 speeds. And according to the article, Forde pushed back saying that increasing the standard from 25/3 MBS to 100/100 would only reclassify some areas as unserved. The federal definition of broadband right now is 25/3 (25 Mbps down and 3 Mbps up). The Minnesota state goals are 25/3 by 2022 and 100/20 by 2026 – but the MN Broadband Task Force is investigating whether that should be increased.

I’ve heard this reasoning in previous discussions in the Task Force meetings and other places. So again I think it’s worth unpacking. On the front lines, a user is more concerned with “do I have enough broadband” than whether they are considered served, underserved or unserved. Can I get through a telehealth visit while feeding the pigs or does my broadband drop or slow down? Can I do a zoom call while my kids are taking classes online?

Providers and policymakers care about whether someone is served/underserved/unserved because that determines where the funding goes and that helps color the maps that show how successful we are in getting everyone broadband. A mismatch in the definitions may help policymakers declare an early success – but it will be short-lived because constituents who can’t get their work done with slower (25/3) speeds will still be calling them to complain. And if it turns out that taxpayer money has been spent on broadband solutions that do not scale to higher speeds, constituents will be angry and policymakers may feel duped. The only ones who benefit from a lower speed goal are the providers who get the funding to build to lower speeds.

I’m trying to think of an analogy – the best I can do is I go to buy a dress for my daughter, she needs a size 4 and they only have a size 2. But the salesperson convinces me that this size 2 will work, because it’s sleeveless or short or (worse) made of stretchy material. Oh and I can get it on sale. So I buy the dress. My kid is excited. Big win for the mom. Until she tries it on. It simply doesn’t fit. Maybe she can cut it into a top or a skirt – she can be partially served – but at the end of the day, she can’t go to the prom in it.

Unfortunately broadband is a lot more expensive than a prom dress. We all want a win – aiming for what we need will help us reach a longer lasting win.

Minnesota speed tests –spreading to other states and a competition is formed. Time to take a test!

I love a competition in January – from St Paul Winter Carnival Treasure Hunt to beating others states at taking state broadband speed tests. And while I have my Carnival button, just incase I find the medallion first, I’m feeling better about the odds for winning the most speed tests award.

Regular readers will know that GEO Partners have partnered with Minnesota Broadband Coalition to encourage people throughout Minnesota to take the broadband speed tests. Traditional broadband maps have been built largely on broadband provider-supplied data; GEO Partner maps are built on user-supplied data. Well, Kentucky is the latest state to take on the user-focused mapping, largely with the help of the Center for Rural Development.

GEO Partners report in an email…

Lt. Gov. Jacqueline Coleman announced today the launch of the Kentucky Broadband Speed Test, a crowd-sourcing project that will gather data from Kentuckians needed to expand internet home access for distance learning, telework and telehealth. Kentuckians can take the free, anonymous speed test from Jan. 19 to Feb. 18 at ewdc.ky.gov/Initiatives/Pages/KBI.aspx.


This means four states are using the mapping:

You can see from the map, that Minnesota’s definitely in the running but here are the map stats:

  • Minnesota has mapped 32,171 locations.
  • Washington has mapped 32,307.
  • Kentucky is at 10,984 (as of Sunday)– but they have only been up a few days.
  • Main has mapped 10,083

We’re going to need a burst of energy to get the most mapped!

EVENT Feb 17: Data as the Foundation for Broadband Planning

Another great event coming up…

Data as the Foundation for Broadband Planning

The federal government compiles huge broadband datasets cataloguing broadband availability and subscriptions through the US Census Bureau and Federal Communications Commission, among others. These can be augmented with commercially available speed test data to provide a better insight into broadband access and availability. Join BroadbandUSA on February 17, 2021 to gain a fuller understanding of these datasets and how to use data to strengthen your broadband planning efforts.

Wed, Feb 17, 2021 1:00 PM – 2:00 PM CST
Register now!

Klobuchar Broadband Provisions Included in Year-End Package Passed by Senate, Expected to be Signed Into Law

Big news from Senator Klobuchar, especially on broadband mapping and college kids in need of better broadband…

U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar, co-chair of the Senate Broadband Caucus, announced that several of her key broadband priorities were included in the year-end omnibus package passed by the Senate and expected to be signed into law. These provisions include funding to ensure students with the greatest financial need have access to high-speed internet based off Klobuchar’s Supporting Connectivity for Higher Education Students in Need Act and funding to implement the Broadband Deployment Accuracy and Technological Availability (DATA) Act, bipartisan legislation to improve the accuracy of the FCC’s broadband availability maps which was signed into law in March.


“In 2020, every family in America should have access to high-speed internet, regardless of their zip code,” Klobuchar said. “The pandemic has exposed how critical broadband is to staying connected to work, school, health care and more. These provisions will help bring us closer to ensuring all Americans have access to high speed internet by improving the broadband data collection process and connecting our college students with the greatest financial need to vital internet services.”  


The following provisions were included:

  • Connecting College and University Students in Need: The provision includes funding to ensure college students with the greatest financial need have access to high-speed internet based-off the Supporting Connectivity for Higher Education Students in Need Act. The package includes $285 million funding for historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs), Tribal colleges and universities (TCUs), Hispanic-serving institutions (HSIs) and other minority-serving institutions (MSIs), their students, and minority-owned businesses near those colleges and universities.
    • The funding can be used to purchase routers, modems, wi-fi hotspots, tablets, and laptops. Funding recipients must prioritize students eligible for the Pell Grant or the FCC’s Lifeline program; approved to receive unemployment insurance benefits; currently receiving other need-based financial aid; or earning less than 150 percent of the federal poverty level (i.e., $39,300 for a family of four in the contiguous U.S.). The legislation also allows for connectivity funding for minority-owned businesses near those higher education institutions and establishes the Office of Minority Broadband Initiatives within the National Telecommunications and Information Administration to carry out programs to expand access to broadband at and in communities around HBCUs, TCUs, HSIs and other MSIs.