CHARLESTON, W.Va. – U.S. Senator Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), member of the U.S. Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee and co-chair of the Senate Broadband Caucus, today announced the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) recently released their 2020 Broadband Deployment Report.
Overall, the report shows progress has been made in better connecting communities across the country, however, the report is based off data that Senator Capito still believes to be flawed data, which is why she has been a staunch advocate for improving broadband data maps to ensure accuracy. More granular data is essential to ensure a clear and accurate depiction of the connectivity challenges that exist. Better accuracy leads to more effective federal funding distribution to the communities that need it the most—like many across the state of West Virginia.
“During the COVID-19 pandemic, broadband connectivity has become more critical than ever before,” Senator Capito said. “Since joining the Senate, I have made broadband deployment a priority, which is why I launched my Capito Connect program in order to bring our state’s connectivity issues to the forefront. The FCC’s report shows that broadband deployment has improved. At the same time, this report is not perfect, and I appreciate the FCC’s recognition that more granular data is needed. The report is a positive news that the digital divide continues to close and that we continue to make progress. However, with nearly 30 percent of rural communities still lacking access to 25/3 Mbps service, I remain deeply committed to expanding broadband connectivity across our state, especially as telecommunication capability is vital during these trying times.”
Senator Capito has lead the effort in urging the FCC and others to take specific, concrete steps to improve the accuracy of broadband coverage maps. In March, President Donald Trump signed into law the Broadband Deployment Accuracy and Technological Availability (DATA) Act, legislation Senator Capito co-sponsored and amended to improve the accuracy of broadband coverage maps. The legislation includes several provisions Senator Capito authored and were part of her Broadband Data Improvement Act (BDIA), which she introduced last spring.
Additionally, Senator Capito launched her Capito Connect Plan, which was one of her first efforts as a U.S. Senator. The initiative provides a roadmap for bringing affordable, reliable, high-speed internet access to homes, businesses, and classrooms in West Virginia. Since the launch of Capito Connect, the program has helped West Virginians make significant strides in connectivity. The program has helped educate West Virginians on federal funding opportunities available to them like the recent major USDA broadband investments through the ReConnect program and drive more private investment like the recent announcement by Facebook that they would invest 275 miles of long haul fiber right through the southern portion of state.
FCC REPORT HIGHLIGHTS:
- According to the FCC, the number of Americans lacking 25/3Mbps service has declined nationally by 14 percent in 2018. This progress has been fueled by the approximately $80 billion investment in network infrastructure in 2018 – like Facebook’s fiber investment in West Virginia, which Senator Capito played an instrumental role in bringing to West Virginia.
- More than 85 percent of Americans now have access to fixed terrestrial broadband at 250/25Mbps, this is a 47 percent increase since 2017.
- The FCC has acknowledged that some of the data they rely on—including the Form 477 deployment data—is “imperfect,” which is why they established the new Digital Opportunity Data Collection and Congress passed the Broadband DATA Act.
- The number of Americans lacking 4G Long Term Evolution (LTE) mobile broadband at 10/1Mbps has declined approximately 54 percent between 2017 and 2018.
WEST VIRGINIA HIGHLIGHTS:
- According to the FCC, 82.4 percent of West Virginians have access to broadband service at 25/3 Mbps, leaving close to 20 percent without such access.
- In rural communities, only 70.2 percent have access to 25/3 Mbps and still 30 percent of rural West Virginians do not have access to the FCC’s standard.
- The number of West Virginians with access to Mobile LTE service at 10/3 Mbps is only 82.9 percent.
- In rural communities, only 73.5 percent of West Virginians have access to this service.