W.Va. residents urged to help with FCC broadband map accuracy

Nov. 24—A draft of the long-awaited update of federal mapping of broadband coverage around the country has been released by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), and residents are urged to look at the West Virginia map to make sure it is accurate.

Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., said last week after the maps were released she has concerns with "how they represent West Virginia's coverage."

"These maps, which I have long advocated and also provided funds for, will ultimately play a critical role in our efforts to bridge the digital divide, which is why I will be continuing to work with the FCC to see that West Virginians are accurately represented on these maps," she said. "In the meantime, please visit the FCC map page to to make sure your address is accurately represented."

Access the map page at broadbandmap.fcc.gov/home#/.

Enter the address and the map shows if there is any coverage available at the address and the speed if it is available.

Both Capito and Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., have pushed for more broadband coverage for many years, and the Broadband DATA Act was signed into law in 2020 and includes several provisions Capito, who is a member of both the Senate Appropriations Committee and the Commerce Committee, authored and were part of her Broadband Data Improvement Act (BDIA), which she introduced in May 2019.

Manchin has also urged the FCC to update its incorrect broadband coverage maps that determine how millions of dollars in funding to expand reliable, affordable broadband coverage for Americans and West Virginians is allocated.

"After years of pushing the FCC to update their incorrect broadband coverage maps, the day is finally here," Manchin said in a statement last week after the map was released. "I am pleased the FCC has taken our feedback — including over 2,400 speed tests from West Virginians that prove their maps are incorrect — to update these coverage maps and ensure everyone has a voice in this process."

Manchin said he fought to make sure anyone can challenge the accuracy of these coverage maps.

"I encourage every West Virginian to check their coverage on the FCC's updated map and submit a challenge if it is wrong before Jan. 13," he said. "Thanks to my provision in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, these updated maps will provide the basis for billions of dollars in infrastructure funding to ensure every American and West Virginian gets reliable, affordable broadband access, but they will only be as accurate as the input they receive from states, communities, and consumers. I look forward to continuing to work with the FCC to ensure everyone has access to broadband, no matter where they live in our great state."

During an interview earlier this year, Capito said broadband projects in unserved and underserved areas are the priority and the mapping process was under way to pinpoint where those problem areas are.

That was the purpose of her Capito Connect project, to ask residents to send in what issues they have with broadband.

"We have close to a thousand stories talking about service..." she said at the time, and those include no service, poor service, sudden disconnects and other problems that impede needed broadband work like homework for students.

"This will help show where the problems are," she said, and a map should include exaclty where broadband expansion and enhancement are needed the most. "We have to get the mapping right."

After that, a $5 million grant will be available the state can apply for to pull together the broadband plan because it will be more evident where broadband is most needed, she added.

Capito said each state will get at least $100 million for broadband development from the infrastructure bill, but it is allocated using a formula based on how underserved areas are.

West Virginia should benefit from that formula, she said, because of having so many underserved rural areas.

— Contact Charles Boothe at cboothe@bdtonline.com

Contact Charles Boothe at cboothe@bdtonline.com