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Newburyport Daily News Editorial: In Blockbuster's Swan Song, a Sad Note About Access

WASHINGTON – In case you missed it, the Newburyport Daily News Editorial Board wrote a piece today drawing attention to the urban-rural digital divide that has persisted for far too long in rural communities across the country. The editorial notes that a challenge for expanding broadband in rural areas is flawed mapping from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) that determines where federal money is distributed to build out broadband infrastructure. Currently, the maps show that certain areas are covered with high-speed internet where on-the-ground experience suggests otherwise.

The Editorial Board commends Senator Maggie Hassan’s bipartisan efforts to close the urban-rural digital divide, including a bipartisan letter the Senator sent with a number of her colleagues to the FCC asking for additional time in order to seek input about how to improve mobile broadband coverage maps.

Senator Hassan also introduced bipartisan legislation with Senators Roger Wicker (R-MS) and Jerry Moran (R-KS) that would improve the accuracy of the FCC mobile broadband coverage mapping and ensure that federal resources are targeted to unserved communities that do not have access to reliable mobile broadband service.

See below for highlights of the Editorial, or click here:

Newburyport Daily News Editorial: In Blockbuster's Swan Song, a Sad Note About Access

The digital divide is still quite real. Writing earlier this year for the current affairs website The Conversation, Sharon Strover, a communications professor at the University of Texas, noted two in five Americans still live in places that lack federal standards for basic internet access.

  The good news from an infrastructure standpoint is that the federal government is poised to spend a bunch of money to help upgrade this essential service — more than $4.5 billion funneled through the Federal Communications Commission in the second phase of its Mobility Fund.

What’s troubling is that the FCC’s map to form opinions about where money is needed is flawed, according to experts and people with firsthand knowledge. This spring, a group of 30 Republicans and Democrats in the U.S. Senate — including New Hampshire’s Maggie Hassan and Jeanne Shaheen, and Ed Markey from Massachusetts — successfully lobbied the FCC to take more time seeking input for how to improve its internet access map.

As the government finalizes its map and starts to make decisions about where to spend that money, one hopes it proceeds not only with the best information available but with real strategies to spend taxpayers’ limited resources as effectively as possible. For many communities, the results will be essential for far more reasons than the ability to find a movie to watch on Friday night.