Regulators are urging Wisconsinites to bum the FCC to check the facts on the internet map

Service providers have notified the federal government where they offer fast Internet. Now it’s up to the customers to check their work.

The Federal Communications Commission recently filed a interactive mapping tool which shows the availability of Internet service to individual addresses, as reported by service providers. It’s the most up-to-date, granular map of where high-speed service is and isn’t offered, and will be used to drive billions of dollars in federal support to expand access.

The Public Service Commission is urging residents and businesses to “bait the FCC” by verifying accuracy and presenting challenges.

“An accurate map showing broadband access in our state is critical to ensuring Wisconsin receives our fair share of federal funding,” said PSC Chair Rebecca Cameron Valcq. “Local leaders and members of the public know their communities best, which is why we are earnestly asking them to get involved in the broadband mapping challenge process.”

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The map will be used to direct approximately $42.5 billion in Broadband Equity, Access and Deployment (BEAD) funds authorized under the Bipartisan Infrastructure Act to help expand service to hard-to-reach places.

The PSC expects Wisconsin to receive between $700 million and $1.1 billion, depending largely on final maps. The agency estimated it would cost up to $1.4 billion to make high-speed Internet available to the approximately 650,000 residents currently without access.

Users can go to broadbandmap.gov and zoom in to see the availability of different service types at over 2.3 million individual addresses, and submit challenges if information is inaccurate.

The PSC already has it onpresented more than 7,000 challenges based on missing homes and businesses, but Alyssa Kenney, state director of broadband and digital equity, said residents are the ones who know the most.

“Sometimes we don’t know: is it a barn or a house?” Kenny said. “Both need access?”







Challenge PSC to FCC broadband map

A map of more than 7,000 locations according to the Public Service Commission are missing from the Federal Communications Commission’s Internet Service Availability Map.


Customers can also challenge the map based on availability.

In some cases the map indicates that a 25/3 Mbps service is being offered, but when customers call, the provider says it is either not available or will cost more than the standard setup fee, sometimes thousands of dollars. In other cases, the service technician never shows up.

It’s information that we simply don’t have,” Kenney said. “Those are really challenges best done by individuals.”

Kenney said the new map is a significant improvement over the previous version, which tracked service by census block and tended to overstate availability, especially in sparsely populated rural areas. Those maps made it appear that the service was offered over a large area when it might only be available to one or two homes.

This is a really strong pin,” Kenney said. “This is the first iteration of ones that will likely take a few years and a few rounds to get right.”

But there are shortcomings.

For example, the map includes technologies such as satellite service, which can be very expensive and not always reliable, but is technically available to 98% of all residents.

“You have to be able to afford satellite,” said Doug King, a consultant who works from his home near Mount Horeb in the city of Perry. “When you toggle the settings to the cheapest cable/fiber option, most parts around here go dark.”

King, who has battled with TDS Telecommunications since 2009 to improve service in the city, said the map gets “even sillier” as homes that are purported to have 25/3Mbps service actually run much slower. — unless customers agree to bundle service with cable and telephone service.







Alyssa Kenney

Kenny


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Kenney would like future versions of the map to reflect that reality.

“This map is focused on availability,” Kenney said. “It’s not about performance and not about convenience. It’s a great first step. We would like to see what people are actually experiencing in their home. And what is the cost?”