Editorials, Opinion

Do you have broadband?

You may remember that when the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act passed, it allotted millions of dollars to expanding broadband access to unserved and underserved areas. Those dollars are set to be allocated to the states in June 2023, based on the Federal Communications Commission’s broadband map. That map is due to be finalized in mid-January, so West Virginians need to check the map accurately reflects the internet services available to them.

It’s a relatively simple process. Ironically, though, you have to have internet access in order to do it. (Someone didn’t think that one through.) If you want to verify your info on the broadband map and can’t do it yourself, please enlist the help of a tech-savvy and internet-connected friend or family member.

Here’s how to complete the process:

Go to broadbandmap.fcc.gov/home. On this page, you can type in your address or if you don’t have a street address, your area. After you hit enter, it should take you to a map with lots of grey silhouettes and hopefully green dots. If your location has a green dot, congratulations — you have broadband! Or, you should. (A red dot indicates the location is not served and gray means the address is not covered by residential/small business broadband services.) On the right-hand side of the screen, you should see a list of providers who serve or can serve your house.

If everything on the page is accurate, you’re done. If not, you can submit two types of challenges to the FCC: availability and/or location.

Above this list and to the right you should see a link that says “Availability Challenge.” An availability challenge is for you to say the providers listed for your address don’t actually serve your house.  This is where you can report that you requested service from a particular provider and they denied your request, asked for exorbitant fees or didn’t install a connection within the promised time frame.  For more details, go to https://help.bdc.fcc.gov/hc/en-us/articles/10476040597787-How-to-File-an-Availability-Challenge.

To the right of your address, there’s a link that says “Location Challenge.” A location challenge can be issued if your address doesn’t appear on the map, if the structure that’s connected is in a different place than on the map, there’s incorrect information or the location is misidentified. For additional information, go to https://help.bdc.fcc.gov/hc/en-us/articles/10475216120475-How-to-Submit-a-Location-Challenge.

You can also check for and challenge mobile broadband connections. Next to where it says “Fixed Broadband” at the top of the page is a second link that says “Mobile Broadband.” This page will show you what cellphone carriers cover your address and what speed of internet they offer (3G, 4G or 5G). You can only challenge mobile broadband connections if you can’t get it outside your house or inside your car. If you can’t get it inside your house, that doesn’t count. For this challenge, you’ll have to take a speed test on your phone. For the full how-to, go to https://help.bdc.fcc.gov/hc/en-us/articles/10468786141723-How-to-Use-the-FCC-Speed-Test-App-to-Challenge-Mobile-Coverage.

It’s extremely important that the map accurately reflect the reality here in the Mountain State; otherwise, we might not receive the appropriate amount of broadband funding.