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Georgia Rural Broadband Situation Worse Than FCC Maps Showed, New Mapping Underway

Georgia's working on an unprecedented broadband service mapping project to detail who has access and who doesn't.
Georgia's working on an unprecedented broadband service mapping project to detail who has access and who doesn't.
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Turns out, rural broadband access in Georgia is worse than the federal government had thought.

That’s according to data from a pilot mapping program from the state Department of Community Affairs. To come up with solutions for rural broadband access, lawmakers need to know how bad it is. And right now, they only have inaccurate maps from the Federal Communications Commission.

That’s where the new state mapping program comes in.

“The FCC maps vastly understates the unserved areas by comparison to our mapping. One of the reasons for that is their methodology,” Deana Perry, who runs the Department of Community Affairs’ rural broadband program, said to lawmakers at a meeting of the House Rural Development Council this week.

The FCC maps measured using census blocks, she said. That meant if one person had broadband in a block, the whole block is classified as served.

The top row of maps shows the existing maps done by the FCC. The bottom shows the more accurate maps recently finished by the state. (Courtesy of Department of Community Affairs)

The state is conducting its own mapping program by counting down to each customer with data from individual broadband providers. Perry presented the results from the three counties in the state’s pilot program, which also involves the Georgia Technology Authority and the University of Georgia’s Carl Vinson Institute of Government.

“This is one of a kind mapping. This has not been done by any other state. Hasn’t been done at the federal level,” she said. “But what we do know is there is a big push because everyone knows that the FCC maps are inaccurate. And where that is problematic is those maps are used for funding purposes. So if you are considered served, but when you, in fact, aren’t, you won’t be eligible for those funds at the federal level.”

She said the new statewide map will be done by the summer of 2020.

“We’re definitely on the right track,” she said.