WICKER: New FCC Maps pave the way for better coverage | Mississippi News

Introduced by Senator Roger Wicker

“Getting these maps right is important because they will determine where future broadband efforts will be focused,” Wicker writes.

Few things have changed our world like the Internet. Today, millions of Americans use the Internet to find jobs, get an education, manage their savings, read the news, and keep in touch with family and friends. Unfortunately, many Mississippians don’t take advantage of these benefits because they don’t have access to broadband. This disparity exists because federal broadband investment has largely gone to cities, leaving many rural areas behind. Since coming to Congress, I have consistently fought to reverse this trend and bring faster broadband to our unserved and underserved communities, using my leadership role on the Senate Commerce Committee to achieve this goal. Recently, one of my top legislative priorities was implemented, paving the way for better Internet access across Mississippi.

On November 18, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) released new and improved broadband maps showing where broadband is available and at what speeds. These maps were much needed after years of flawed reporting. For example, in 2018, the FCC claimed Mississippi had 98 percent mobile broadband coverage — an absurd claim for anyone living in or traveling through rural Mississippi. This flawed data has made it difficult for us to get the federal broadband investments we need. To address this problem, I authored the Broadband DATA Act, which requires the FCC to create more accurate maps and update them regularly. Congress passed the bill in 2020, resulting in new maps. Because of this landmark legislation, Mississippi is now in a stronger position to attract broadband investment.

FCC Needs to Hear from Mississippians

The FCC’s new maps are a big step forward, but they’re still far from perfect. According to some reports, not all communities are still on the maps. It is critical that we make every effort to correct these errors by providing feedback to the FCC. The good news is that any resident can now easily challenge the maps if they believe their broadband coverage is being misrepresented. If the challenge is successful, the FCC will be required to correct the map.

Getting these maps right is critical because they will determine where future broadband efforts will be focused. For example, when the FCC awards broadband dollars from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Act, it will allocate them based on how the maps look in June 2023. This short time horizon makes it urgent that we submit issues as soon as possible. I encourage all Mississippians to check their home or work address on the FCC maps website. Just go to broadbandmap.fcc.gov, then type in the address and see if the reported coverage is accurate. Residents can submit a problem by clicking on “Location Check” if there is no space or “Availability Problem” if the coverage information is incorrect.

Broadband money is coming to Mississippi

As a negotiator of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Act, I helped secure a minimum of $100 million in broadband funding for Mississippi. In addition to these funds, Mississippi will continue to benefit from targeted investments from the Rural Digital Opportunities Fund and USDA’s Reconnection program, which recently awarded $30 million to seven rural Mississippi counties. This investment will bring high-speed internet to approximately 11,000 people, 100 businesses and 367 farms. As long as rural areas continue to be underserved, I will use every means at my disposal to bring broadband to every corner of Mississippi.

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Introduced by Senator Roger Wicker