Dec. 30—The Federal Communications Commission recently released a new map showing what it believes is the type and speed of internet service that is now available to every household in East Texas. The map was built with information from internet providers, including those in our region.
Rural leaders from throughout Texas have voiced concerns that the map exaggerates the actual service that is available to Texans, especially those in rural communities. There is a process for individual households and communities to challenge the map data, and the East Texas Council of Governments is urging residents to look at the map and report inaccuracies. ETCOG is working on a region-wide bulk challenge; however, individual household challenges are an important part of this process.
Why is this so important?
More than $40 Billion from the Federal Government will soon be sent to states to expand internet connections. The new FCC map will determine how that money is allocated among the states, with funding allocated based on the number of unconnected homes on the map. ETCOG's goal is to help ensure the State of Texas receives its fair share of this funding. If only one percent of the map is inaccurate, 100,000 or more Texas homes could remain unserved. The problem is thought to be even greater in rural areas, where some estimates are that the inaccuracies may be as high as 25 percent. In East Texas, that could equate to more than 30-40,000 homes.
The timeline to participate in the challenge process is short. The deadline for challenges is Jan. 13. The process requires household residents to review their addresses on the map and report, with evidence, any errors.
How to Submit a Challenge
To look at your residence on the map, go to www.broadbandmap.fcc.gov/home. Households that do not have internet access can get help at their local library or use the WIFI at a local fast-food restaurant. On the home page, you can place your address in the "search by address" window, which will show your location on the map. It will also show the internet providers at your home and the type of service each provides.
Once an address is entered, the map will zoom in and show what has been reported as available.
The Texas Broadband Development Office has also provided more details on how to submit a challenge at
www.comptroller.texas.gov/programs/broadband/communities/maps/fcc. As many who most need the service may not be able to get onto the internet to complete the task, you may contact ETCOG at 903-918-6400 for help.
Challenges can be based on several bases, including that the provider denied a request for service, demanded excessive connection fees, or failed to schedule an installation within 10 business days of a request. Once a challenge is filed, providers are required to review the challenge and either concede or dispute it within 60 days.
Reasons you can submit an availability challenge as described by the Texas Broadband Office include:
—The provider failed to schedule a service installation within 10 business days of a request.
—The provider did not install the service at the agreed-upon time.
—Provider requested more than the standard installation fee to connect this location.
—The provider denied the request for service.
—The provider does not offer the technology or service type at this location.
—The reported speed is not available for purchase.
—Subscribed speed is not achievable. (Individuals only can select this option (on the map), but it won't create a challenge.)
—No wireless signal is available at this location.
—New, non-standard equipment is required to connect this location.
If one of the services listed is not actually offered to the selected location, or if the providers listed do not actually serve your location, you can submit an availability challenge.
The East Texas Council of Governments is a voluntary association of counties, cities, school districts, and special districts within the fourteen-county East Texas region. ETCOG assists local governments in planning for common needs, cooperating for mutual benefit, and coordinating for sound regional development. Established in 1970, ETCOG, either directly or through its contractors, provides programs and services for East Texas seniors, employers, and job seekers. ETCOG and its contractors also build the 9-1-1 emergency call delivery system, provide peace officer training and homeland security planning services, and deliver rural transportation services, business finance programs and environmental grant funding for the region. To find out more, visit www.etcog.org.