The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) – in the midst of an ongoing revamp of how it builds and updates its national broadband maps – is in the process of gathering crowdsourced data from the public and considering how to use it to improve the mapping process.

That was a top-level takeaway from FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel, who spoke about a range of agency efforts at the ITI Intersect tech policy conference in Washington Tuesday.

The FCC’s map revamp effort is a work long in progress, mandated by Congress, and crucial to government decisions about where to devote Federal funding to areas of the country that are deemed to be unserved or underserved by providers.  The FCC released pre-production versions of its national broadband maps in November 2022.

“The old broadband maps were not very good at all,” Rosenworcel said today, for a number of reasons including that they “radically overstated the availability of service in rural areas.”

The new mapping effort takes in data generated by the FCC from hundreds of available data points, data contributed by service providers – and more recently – data that the FCC is urging the public to submit about available services and speeds where they live.

“We can’t make smart policy decisions … without data,” Rosenworcel emphasized today.

Asked today how the crowdsourcing effort was going, Rosenworcel replied, “we are poring over that data now…to see what we can do with it.”

She said the broadband map update effort is an “iterative” process, that will lead to two map updates per year.

The map refresh effort is “not a one and done” exercise, the FCC Chairwoman said, adding, “we are off to a really good start.”

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