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Today, the Federal Communications Commission published its 2019 Broadband Deployment Report, claiming that “the nation’s digital divide is narrowing.” Public Knowledge contends that this finding rings hollow with unserved and underserved Americans.
The following may be attributed to Alisa Valentin, Communications Justice Fellow at Public Knowledge:
“The FCC has yet again given themselves a pat on the back for ‘narrowly closing’ the digital divide in the 2019 broadband deployment report all while millions of Americans are still unserved and underserved.
“The FCC issued this report despite flawed self-reported data that drastically overestimated which communities are connected to this essential service. If we fail to accurately identify who has access to broadband in America, we will fail to find proper policy solutions for closing the digital divide. This lackadaisical approach to understanding the breadth of the digital divide will result in widening disparities in education, healthcare, and economic opportunity. This is a complete disservice to communities of color, rural communities, and low-income communities who can’t afford to be left behind in the digital age; our country deserves more.
“This is about accountability. If the FCC truly wants to avoid ‘waste, fraud, and abuse’ then the Broadband Deployment Report should serve as the premier data source for understanding what consumers are unserved and underserved. The Commission is in dire need of an overhaul of Form 477, which is the data used as the primary basis for the Broadband Deployment Report. The agency itself admits that the form isn’t perfect but chooses to address how to improve data collection at a later date.
“In order to understand the digital divide, consumers need access to accurate pricing data and information about actual eeds and not just advertised speeds. Without these reforms, we will be here next year looking at yet another questionable report.”