Public asked to fact-check FCC broadband map
LOWVILLE — Even though the Federal Communications Commission believes 100% of North Country households and businesses have access to high speed internet, thousands of people would disagree. But don’t worry, the FCC wants to know about the discrepancies, so there’s a map for that.
Whether or not you have access or are happy with the access you have to broadband, New York State ConnectALL is encouraging everyone to jump onto the FCC’s interactive Broadband Availability Map online — whether on a phone or computer — type in a home or business address and see what companies claim to have service available for you, at what download and upload speeds and with which technology.
If any of the information is inaccurate, there is an “availability challenge” box can be clicked that will walk people through a number of questions to verify the stated service is not actually being provided.
Lewis County Planning Department Director Casandra Buell suggested in an interview on Friday that anyone that believes there is a discrepancy should call the company in question first to verify whether they are now offering broadband at the address because there continue to be more options added in a number of areas.
“Everything is changing so quickly,” she said, noting that even she — who has the most up-to-date information about broadband availability in the county as she leads projects bringing service to hard-to-reach areas — found out a company that was not a broadband provider in her area two years ago is now making it possible for her to switch to the faster service.
In places where there is at least one broadband company offering service but there are many listed that are not, the feedback is helpful to the FCC for accuracy and accountability, but Buell said reporting errors is most important when the map indicates there is one or more company providing high speed internet “but you know there are none.”
Challenges can also be made to the download speeds, not keeping connection appointments and connection fees that are higher than the should be, among others.
The challenge form gives respondents an option to upload proof of the discrepancy, giving examples like correspondence with the company or screen shots of their website or marketing materials.
The map is the primary tool the FCC is using to take a national broadband census that will be used to ensure funding is available for states to reach those that are still underserved or with no internet access at all.
Buell said the state will receive thousands of dollars per address that is proven not to have broadband access despite being indicated as fully served on the map.
Although the state’s deadline for submitting challenges was on Jan. 13, Buell said she was informed by representatives of the Development Authority of New York and Hudson Valley Wireless — the provider hired by the county to provide wireless broadband in Diana and Lyonsdale — that submissions will continue to be accepted.
Because of the short window for submission that began on Jan. 3, Buell made a bulk challenge claim with a long list of addresses that are not served in her county based on data collected and maintained by her department and the Development Authority, but she still encourages individuals, especially those without any broadband access, to check the map.
“You are your best advocate,” she said. “Go on, look at your address, and send it to them if it’s wrong.”
The FCC created a video on their YouTube channel entitled “How to Submit and Availability Challenge” to help people through the process.
To check the high speed internet available at your address, go to broadbandmap.fcc.gov/home.