We cannot fix it if we don’t know where problem is

We called it a lack, not leap, of logic in the digital age about this time last year.

In that editorial, we took the Federal Communications Commission to task for a report that used a flawed measure of broadband access.

The agency considered an entire area covered if a carrier reports that a single building on a census block has fast internet speeds.

Some mistakes you can wave off as no harm, no foul. While others might have consequences, you can still move forward. But this report’s mistakes went far beyond allowing for the mistaken impression about our state’s internet access using inaccurate data.

Indeed, it cost at least seven counties and some state agencies federal funding related for broadband deployment.

A year later the FCC is still wrestling with inaccurate data and maps about who  lacks broadband. The FCC did conclude it had a problem last year when it put a $4.5 billion federal grant program on hold while it figured out what’s what.

Apparently, it’s still figuring. That investigation into whether carriers submitted incorrect data for the maps used to allocate grants is ongoing.

Those broadband maps, for instance, classified Weston, as too-well connected for any grants.

It’s not just slow connections there. Often you even cannot send an email from your phone or go online to Google maps there. Last year’s FCC report on broadband access also reported seven counties in West Virginia have 100 percent access.

If you’re in Barbour, Gilmer, Lewis, Randolph and Upshur counties, see how much access you have to broadband. Braxton County was only at 99.9 percent.

To the FCC’s credit, its commissioner conceded the agency doesn’t even know where the needs are greatest, calling it “embarrassing” and “shameful.” She’s correct, too, to note that if we’re ever going to fix this digital divide of haves and have-nots we need an accurate accounting, first.

But meanwhile  thousands of small communities are waiting on those federal funds to help deploy broadband.

Some say major carriers, such as Verizon and T-Mobile, have inflated their data and advertising about coverage areas to attract more customers.

Once again, a government agency has become reliant on the private sector for the complete picture rather than conducting surveys of its own or contracting with independent companies to do so.

Flawed, carrier-submitted maps on internet connectivity are not only crippling grant programs.

They are leaving rural areas of West Virginia and elsewhere even further behind.

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