Amelia Knisely Published

Residents Verifying Internet Access Key To Acquiring Funds To Address Coverage Gaps

Broadband Lawsuit

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has released a draft of a map detailing broadband availability across the U.S., but unlike previous versions, residents can now challenge the accuracy of the information about their internet.

For years, the FCC has generalized broadband coverage, and the data did not accurately reflect internet access in rural areas.

Kelly Workman, director of the West Virginia Office of Broadband, said they’ve already found 138,000 instances where the map wrongly reported on internet locations.

She encouraged residents to verify their internet availability and location by entering their home address on the FCC’s online map.

“We encourage all West Virginians to participate in this process,” Workman said. “We have heard from West Virginians all throughout the state about the faulty reporting, so we know the frustration is out there.”

The coverage map impacts federal funding to address internet gaps, and the state will compete for millions of dollars in infrastructure grants to improve internet access.

The National Telecommunications and Information Administration has nearly $42.5 billion to put toward the country’s internet issues from funding created by the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.

U.S. Sens. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., and Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., recently hosted an informational session for West Virginia community leaders on how to check coverage and challenge the maps when necessary.

“West Virginia is primed to receive and compete for hundreds of millions of dollars to bring reliable, affordable broadband access to all West Virginians, but only if the broadband coverage maps are correct,” Manchin said. “Because of our bipartisan efforts and years of advocating, West Virginians can now finally search the FCC’s maps to see if they accurately show broadband coverage at an address.”

Capito added, “For years now, I have worked hard to make sure we produce broadband maps that accurately represent the connectivity challenge that we face in West Virginia, especially because they will be a major factor in the distribution of Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act funding … I continue to have concerns regarding their accuracy in West Virginia.”

Challenges to the FCC’s information are due by Jan. 13, 2023, and the West Virginia Office of Broadband has outlined how to submit a challenge on its website.