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New broadband map seeks community input

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Glenn Carstens Peters

Billions of dollars in federal funding to improve high-speed internet access across the country will be influenced by the FCC’s latest nationwide broadband map. It’s supposed to provide an accurate picture of what kind of internet service is available at every address in the United States. But it’s not perfect, and the FCC is giving people until January 13th to file challenges if they believe there’s a mistake. Rick Brewer spoke with Eric Frederick, chief connectivity officer for the Michigan High-Speed Internet Office, to understand how the process works.


Rick Brewer: Eric, why don't you go ahead and explain to people what is at stake, if they choose to not fill out the survey.

Eric Frederick: The new map provides a level of granularity that finally allows individual consumers to better understand the services that are available to their home. This is the first time that the FCC has, has made that available to consumers. And they are opening that map up to what are called challenges. And when an individual user looks at the map, and finds service available to them, or reported service available to them, I should say, that is not actually available, it's important for them to challenge that map, to make sure that the National Map reflects the connectivity that they see in their community and for their location. And by not doing so it can mean that service might not be available to them in the future. Through future funding efforts to build out infrastructure.

Rick Brewer: Are people able to challenge the internet speed that is listed on the map?

Eric Frederick: There's a lot of confusion about what is a valid what's called a valid challenge to that map. Now it's simply taking a speed test at your home. And seeing that the speed that you're receiving doesn't match what the internet service claims are for that location is not enough of a challenge. What the FCC wants to see, in terms of speed being reported, is that you are not able to actually order the speed that's advertised on the FCC map. If a consumer goes to that internet service providers website and can't actually order the speed that is reported on the FCC map. That is definitely a challenge.

Rick Brewer: How does the state of Michigan define high speed internet?

Eric Frederick: We definitely look to the federal programs that are coming to define the types of speeds that we're looking for the bipartisan infrastructure law that passed last year, uses a speed of 100 megabits per second download, and 20 megabits per second upload as the threshold for this for what we're looking to achieve the minimum threshold I should say. And so that is by far becoming the minimum speed standard that we're looking for. And so because we are as an office implementing federal programs, that is the speed definition that we have adopted.

Rick Brewer: Do you know roughly how many homes in the state of Michigan are meeting that?

Eric Frederick: According to the new FCC map, we have about half a million homes in Michigan that are not meeting that standard, we definitely have our work cut out for us in identifying all of those locations, determining the cost to build there, and then implementing programs that will then deploy internet service to those locations, we have a lot of rural areas that have been left behind because they have low household density. And so by implementing the federal funds that are coming, we'll be able to build service to those areas.

Rick Brewer: I think some people who are listening to this, they hear about the grant funding coming to their local municipality maybe. And they want to learn how they can be involved in ensuring that their rural community, for example, who may have been left behind, as you just referenced, how can they get involved in this process to ensure that their community is not left behind again?

Eric Frederick: For the average citizen, we want them to reach out to their communities, we want them to reach out to their local internet service providers and encourage them to get involved in this process come the first of the year, the Michigan high speed internet office is going to be launching a community listening to our across the state. We want folks to come tell us what their issues are, what are their needs, what are their aspirations for connectivity in their community. And then of course, we want them to bring any solutions that they might have. We want to listen to all of the communities in the state and really again, understand their needs, their aspirations and their solutions that they have to help us craft a plan for achieving universal availability in the state. And so come the first of the year, we're going to put out a lot more information on this tour that's coming. And so getting involved in those community meetings that will be holding, getting involved in voicing those concerns to your communities. That's going to be the best way to advocate for not only yourself but your for, for your community in general, and how we can move move things forward together as a state in solving the digital divide.

Rick Brewer: Eric, thank you so much for your time today. We really appreciate it.

Eric Frederick: Yeah, absolutely. More than happy to help

Rick joined WCMU as a general assignment reporter in March 2022.