Following the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) releasing the updated National Broadband Map, West Virginia officials are asking residents to report any inaccuracies about their internet service.
In a press release, Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., notes that the FCC’s map will determine how Federal funds for broadband improvements are allocated, so “it’s crucial that West Virginians paint an accurate picture of the quality of internet service in the state.”
After accessing the FCC’s map online, users can input their addresses. This will let them review the reported broadband availability at their location. The senator’s office said that if the reported information is inaccurate, users will have the option of submitting three types of challenges: location, availability, and speed. Challenges must be submitted to the FCC by Jan. 13.
During an informational session hosted recently, Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., said West Virginia has 2,400 speed tests that indicate the FCC’s map might be inaccurate. He said the state plans to file a bulk challenge.
“West Virginia is primed to receive and compete for hundreds of millions (of dollars) to bring reliable, affordable broadband access to all of West Virginia, regardless of where they live, but only if those locations are accurately mapped,” Manchin said.
Sen. Capito’s office noted that the West Virginia Office of Broadband already has identified some issues with the FCC map. West Virginia Office of Broadband Program Manager Jamie Hoffman said at the information session that the map includes 902,699 serviceable locations in the state, but the Office of Broadband has identified at least 138,000 locations that are missing.
Because satellite service is included in the Federal map, West Virginia is shown at nearly 100 percent served, Hoffman said. When satellite is removed, he said, the number drops to about 79 percent.
This is an “unprecedented opportunity” for West Virginians to challenge the accuracy of the Federal map, said Kelly Workman, director of the Office of Broadband, at the event.
“These maps have been a challenge – and that’s putting it nicely – for years. Everyone in West Virginia has known for a long time that these maps are not serving our state well,” Workman said.
Per Federal guidelines, each state will receive a baseline of $100 million for broadband improvements. However, as much as $600 million more in funding might be available, Workman said.
“That’s why this opportunity is crucial,” Capito said in a statement.
“Why are we putting such heavy emphasis on this? Because the amount we get is going to be calculated on how many are unserved or underserved in our region,” she said at the informational session. “That is the key element: Unserved or underserved areas. We think that West Virginia has been way undercounted here, and that is a source of great concern for us.”