What’s New in Civic Tech: Bi-partisan Senate Bill Would Require FCC to Collect Data on Wireless Broadband Coverage
A bi-partisan group of senators has filed a bill that would require the FCC to collect accurate and up-to-date information about the availability of wireless broadband coverage. This legislation, dubbed the Rural Wireless Act of 20171, was announced Wednesday, May 17 in press releases by two senators supporting the bill, Joe Manchin2 (D-W.Va.) and Gary Peters3 (D-Mich.). Sponsors say the act would help ongoing efforts to ensure that all families, businesses, schools, farmers and others in rural areas have access to high-speed Internet, and it would do so by ensuring that current mobile broadband coverage data is correct. A similar bill was also recently introduced4 in the House. In addition to Sens. Manchin and Peters, others supporting the bill include Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), Deb Fischer (R-Neb.) and Jerry Moran (R-Kan.).
In quotes on press releases from their offices, supportive senators described this bill as a step to make it easier for unserved and underserved communities to have equitable access to digital opportunities. Others voiced support for clearing up potential inaccuracies in the FCC’s current reporting.
“I have consistently expressed concern that FCC’s data does not reflect the real mobile broadband experience of consumers in rural America,” said Wicker in the released put out by Manchin’s office. “This bill would address that problem by directing the Commission to improve the accuracy of the data it collects. This is an important step to ensure federal funds are spent on deploying broadband in communities that truly need it.”
This bi-partisan news comes as controversy swirls around the FCC’s recent decision to start rolling back net neutrality preventions put in place under President Obama.
Louisville Plans to Expand Fiber Network
As construction begins to bring ultra-fast Google Fiber Internet access to Louisville, Ky., city officials are voicing support for a plan that would vastly expand the city’s own current fiber network and capabilities.
In a post5 Wednesday May, 17 on Medium, Louisville IT Manager Chris Seidt detailed the municipal effort to lay 96.5 miles of fiber-optic cable throughout the Louisville metro area, describing a build that will run from the city’s downtown to the county border. To accomplish this, Louisville is partnering with Kentucky Wired6, the state fiber build that is adding thousands of miles of such cable throughout Kentucky. Seidt wrote, “similar to Louisville, the goal is to connect government buildings to the network, and expand the fiber footprint to draw additional private investment in the Internet market throughout the Commonwealth.”
Seidt went on to describe the financial nuances of this effort, as well as the ways that the city can leverage a new fiber backbone to enhance city services through smart city initiatives. Potential services mentioned include Wi-Fi hot spots, connected traffic signals capable of reducing congestion, and sensors that could monitor and improve public safety, air quality and transportation overall. This build was first proposed in Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer’s recommended fiscal 2017-2018 budget7.
Meanwhile, Google has begun installing fiber-optic cables in Louisville homes, encouraging interested residents to reach out for more information8.
Missouri State Website Centralizes Disaster Relief Efforts in Wake of Floods
After flooding that caused water levels to hit near-record crests in late April and early May, the state of Missouri has created a website to centralize its recovery efforts9 and updates. Noting that residents and businesses throughout Missouri had suffered millions of dollars in damages, the site voices a firm commitment by the state government to work with federal and municipal agencies to facilitate recovery. It then lists recent updates about such efforts, related news coverage, and, perhaps most importantly, a set of resources available to those in need.
The resources are broken down into 18 separate categories, including health, safety, clean up, insurance, taxes, housing and many others.
In addition, there are also areas set aside for those who wish to give donations online, as well as for citizens who have spotted road damage, spills or scam attempts related to the flooding and subsequent recovery.
- ^ Rural Wireless Act of 2017 (www.congress.gov)
- ^ Joe Manchin (www.manchin.senate.gov)
- ^ Gary Peters (www.peters.senate.gov)
- ^ A similar bill was also recently introduced (www.congress.gov)
- ^ In a post (medium.com)
- ^ Kentucky Wired (www.kentuckywiredproject.com)
- ^ fiscal 2017-2018 budget (louisvilleky.gov)
- ^ interested residents to reach out for more information (fiber.google.com)
- ^ created a website to centralize its recovery efforts (recovery.mo.gov)