Missouri asks consumers to report poor or no internet service, to secure state’s share of $42 billion for broadband

(The Center Square) – Missourians are being encouraged to correct an FCC map showing broadband internet service by Jan. 13, 2023, to ensure the state gets its share of $42 billion in federal funding.

The Department of Economic Development’s Office of Broadband estimates approximately $2.5 billion in federal funds could be gained to create or enhance broadband infrastructure if Missourians make necessary corrections to the map.

A statewide campaign was launched earlier this month to encourage all Missourians to participate in identifying possible service inaccuracies in various geographic areas. People can visit broadbandmap.fcc.gov and enter their address to determine what level of service is available according to the map. Consumers can click on a link to challenge the map’s accuracy by reporting geographic locations with poor or no service.

“When we first saw the map just a couple weeks ago, I did what everybody probably does – I looked at my house and the places I was most familiar with,” BJ Tanksley, director of the Office of Broadband, said during a webinar earlier this month. “We want to ask all of you to do the same. Please check the areas you’re familiar with as we try to secure the funding that Missouri deserves as we work toward the goal of connecting all Missourians.”

The FCC map will determine apportioning of the upcoming Broadband Equity, Access and Deployment (BEAD) program. BEAD is part of the $550 billion Infrastructure, Investment and Jobs Act signed into law by President Joe Biden earlier this year.

The federal funding will only cover wired connections, including copper, cable and fiber, and licensed fixed wireless. Unserved areas are considered the highest priority for funding and range from having no eligible technology to an available download speed of 25 megabits per second and an upload speed of 3 mbps. That speed allows two people and up to five devices to use the internet without delays, but would use almost the entire bandwidth to watch 4K streaming video, according to several industry experts.

An underserved area eligible for funding would range from no eligible technology to download speeds of 100 mbps and upload of 20 mbps.

Missouri’s broadband office estimates there are 319,991 unserved locations throughout the state and 176,975 underserved areas. Based on the data from the initial version of the map, one unserved location is worth $5,000 in funding. If Missouri’s estimates are correct, it could result in $2.5 billion in federal funding.

“If you’ve been around the broadband conversation during the last 10 years, you know that mapping has been one of the biggest issues we’ve all talked about,” Tanksley said. “Every Missouri citizen has an opportunity to have a personal impact on that, and we really want to encourage people to take an active look on it.”

Adam Thorp, community development specialist in the Office of Broadband Development, said Missourians need to identify homes and businesses that don’t have good access.

“The uncorrected version of the map, before anyone had a chance to check it, showed half of a million unserved and underserved locations,” Thorp said. “That’s going to be a lot of work to do even with this very large sum of money. So we really need to maximize this opportunity in order to reach everybody.”

Thorp also said the map allows consumers to file a consumer complaint with the FCC if an internet provider is inaccurately advertising an available speed of service.

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