House legislators from both sides of the aisle renewed calls to update the National Broadband Map, which was initially created by the NTIA and the FCC but has languished since 2014 due to lack of funding.
"We must accurately collect and aggregate data to update the National Broadband Map," said Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., during a hearing this week at the House Communications Subcommittee in Washington, D.C., as reported by Broadcasting & Cable. The hearing covered legislation tied to President Trump’s plans to increase spending on the nation’s core infrastructure, and legislators generally argued that broadband networks should be expanded to unserved and underserved areas in the United States as part of that effort.
"People want broadband as much as new roads," Blackburn asserted, echoing comments of other lawmakers at the hearing.
NTIA first released its national broadband map and broadband adoption survey results in 2011. Version 1.0 of the map, designed by Computech, showed broadband availability across the country, including the relative dearth of broadband access in rural areas.
However, as noted on the map’s website, updates to the map stopped on June 30, 2014. “The Commission sought funding for FY 2016 to maintain and update the National Broadband Map, but this request was not granted,” the site stated.
The map was updated with data from the NTIA’s State Broadband Initiative, and was created by the NTIA and the FCC. Interestingly, the NTIA largely managed to avoid the cost-cutting knife of President Trump’s federal budget, released last week.
As B&C noted, the president’s budget includes a 16% cut in funds for the Department of Commerce, the agency that oversees the NTIA, but the document added that the White House will continue to support the NTIA as far as "representing the United States interest at multistakeholder forums on internet governance and digital commerce."
As B&C reported, Trump’s budget does not break out cuts for the FCC, but they are part of a category that will receive a 10% cut in funding. An FCC spokesperson said the agency expects to see its final budget in the spring.
The House’s hearing on broadband availability dovetails with recent comments by the chairman that Trump recently appointed to the FCC, Ajit Pai. In his first major policy address, Pai said that Congress should include funding for broadband infrastructure in any wider infrastructure spending bill it might pass. He added that those funds for broadband infrastructure should be administered through the FCC’s Universal Service Fund.