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FCC App Helps Find Rural Broadband Coverage Gaps

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The Federal Communications Commission would like a more accurate picture of the broadband shortages in rural America, and rural America can help with the data collection. FCC has developed a mobile app to help gauge broadband coverage strength.

Jean Kiddoo is Chair of the FCC’s Broadband Data Task Force, and she explains the app will measure the speed that their broadband service is coming over.

“And the app measures two different kinds of mobile services,” she explained. “First, it measures cellular service, which is the service you use when you’re away from home, and we also have a function on it that enables the user to measure his or her Wi-Fi service at home.”

Once the app is opened on a mobile device, the test is just a simple press of the test button and it’s finished in seconds.

“It takes 15-20 seconds to test both download and upload speeds, and latency and other measurements of broadband service,” Kiddoo said. “You do have to take a look to see if you’re at home and set to measure your Wi-Fi or you’re measuring your mobile broadband provided device like your telephone broadband service. There is that setting you can change. The information, first and foremost, is for their benefit to determine whether or not they’re getting the speeds that their provider has indicated that they’re paying for. Obviously, that’s an important question for users.”

Kiddoo says the FCC will collect your data anonymously and use it for periodic reporting on broadband service, what’s available and where it’s available.

“But more importantly, we are engaged in a longer-term project right now. A very important one that is going to be building a brand-new and improved data collection, where we are going to be collecting the mobile broadband and the fixed broadband service information from all providers across the country and putting it onto maps and allowing users and state and local governments to review that information and to challenge it, to make sure that we have the best possible information available as to where broadband is and where it’s not, and at what speeds it’s available.”

She says the goal is to fill the gaps in broadband service across rural America.

“There are many ways that we want to be sure that all Americans across the country, both rural and urban areas, have access to high-speed mobile broadband service. It’s become more and more important, especially during this pandemic, when users are at home, having to do homeschooling, working from home, operating their businesses from home, so broadband is more of a lifeline-type service at this point. And so, it’s important to us that we make sure that we get it deployed to areas that need it, and there are a number of both federal, state, and local funding processes that rely on good solid information, and we want to make sure that information is as accurate as we can get it for those funding efforts.”

Consumers can find more information and make their voices heard on broadband at the FCC website.

“You can access it at www.fcc.gov/broadbanddata. There’s information for consumers linked to that page about this speed test, for example,” Kiddoo said. “Also, we have a place where consumers can submit stories about their broadband experience for us, which will help inform us as we develop our data-collection systems. So, we’re anxious to get consumer input and feedback, particularly from rural consumers, who really are the most underserved in the country in terms of the availability of broadband.”

Source: NAFB News Service