This week we’re reflecting a bit on the deeply flawed challenge process to the deeply flawed FCC broadband map which just officially wrapped up (maybe). To be fair to the FCC, it was always going to be a herculean task to map out all the locations in the country that may demand internet service, and accurately reflect whether those locations receive it.
Experts on the subject have pointed out the many flaws of the FCC’s challenges. Maine Connectivity Authority did the right thing by trying to creating an avenue for public participation in correcting Maine’s broadband map. Hopefully what individual Mainers have done to challenge these flaws, coupled with MCA’s own bulk challenge, will help ensure that Maine receives its full fair share of federal broadband funding through the NTIA BEAD program. Reading the commentary from the experts and decidedly pro-provider bias of the challenge arbitrations, I’m not positive that we can be confident in this, despite the money and time that our organizations and individual volunteers have invested already.
But ultimately, we’re in this position because the federal government and FCC treat the internet as more similar to cable television than to other regulated utilities, like electricity or natural gas. In the latter situations, governments or their regulatory authorities routinely require providers of those services to provide information, publish rates, and face public inquiry. We can’t do this when it comes to broadband. Most ISPs share little of this information with the public, saying that data is proprietary business intelligence. So in too many cases, we’re asked to accept ISP-claimed speeds as actual speeds, or ISP-claimed coverage as actual coverage. This creates huge problems that are keeping people from planning service, suppressing competition and private investment.
The internet is a master resource. Without it, everything else gets harder - work, education, business, health care, civic participation, governance, self-expression and fulfillment. We need to do better than this.
We’ll keep working with you all to ensure that the maps get better, that Maine has the resources it needs to connect everyone who wants to be connected, and that we finally achieve universal, affordable, world-class internet service. It’s still an achievable goal, and with Maine institutions and communities this invested, we have as good a shot as any state in the nation.
Myles Smith, Executive Director, Maine Broadband Coalition