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Changes Needed in Mapping Process for Broadband Funding

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Farmers and ranchers say the federal government needs to compile more accurate data in the process that determines federal funding for broadband projects.

A Mississippi farmer told lawmakers this week changes are needed to the mapping process that determines federal broadband funding. During a Senate hearing on efforts to collect more accurate broadband coverage data, Mike McCormick, Mississippi Farm Bureau president, told the committee that Federal Communications Commission maps that determine broadband funding are flawed.

“We don’t think that they are correct for sure. In the state of Mississippi, we’ve challenged the FCC’s maps and found that it was almost impossible to work through that challenge process. Something has to be done with that to be able to prove that we’re not almost fully covered in the state of Mississippi like FCC is saying.”

McCormick says the maps need to reflect current coverage, not intended future coverage.

“It starts with their 477 form which clearly asks a question about intent on service areas and one of the questions centers around could an ISP cover that area, and if that’s marked yes, then that part of the state is considered covered. I think we need to move away from the intent part of it and look strictly at what is covered today.”

He says the FCC needs to use more granular data and include farmland and ranchland. If there is no change in how the FCC assesses broadband needs, McCormick says rural areas will continue to suffer.

“Then I think you continue this digital divide into the future, and it may decades before rural America can catch up. I don’t know if rural communities and rural America can stand to go that long. I think you’ll see more populations moving out of rural America and into metropolitan areas. And we just want to see our children have the chance to live on the farms and live in rural areas and have the same access as people in the cities.”

Source: American Farm Bureau