FCC Form 477
A lot has been said about the Federal Communication Commission (FCC) Form 477 data. For instance, many studies show that it grossly overstates broadband availability (for example here, here, and here). I have never heard it argued that it understates availability. What cannot be denied is that Form 477 has and will continue to influence 100’s of millions of dollars in federal broadband spending. Understanding this data is an important first step to improving it and providing adequate and affordable broadband for all. This data provides communities with the knowledge to collect more granular data where it is needed to contest where 477 overstates availability and seek funding opportunities.
Broadband providers are required to file data with the FCC twice a year (Form 477) on where they offer Internet service at speeds exceeding 0.2 megabits per second (Mbps) in at least one direction. Providers of fixed broadband internet file lists of census blocks in which they can or do offer service to at least one location, with additional information about the transmission technology used and the speeds available. The current minimum FCC standard for broadband is 25 Mbps download and 3 Mbps upload.
The FCC 477 data is notoriously problematic for large rural census blocks, because if one location is served the entire block is shown as served. However problematic the data can be, it provides the baseline upon which several federal grant and loan programs rely. In order to help local, regional and national stakeholders bridge the digital divide, Esri has published the FCC Form 477 broadband availability and provider data to the ArcGIS Living Atlas of the World. This easy to access data will help assess both the availability and competitiveness of service, identify locations limited by infrastructure and to ultimately improve the national broadband map and help provide access to all.
ACS Internet Variables
While the FCC Form 477 speaks to broadband availability, it does not collect information on other factors that can limit access to internet. To help communities examine issues of broadband adoption, the Living Atlas contains data about the computers and devices that people use, whether people access the internet, and how people access the internet.
The U.S. Census Bureau American Community Survey (ACS) collects information about computer and internet use to help state and local agencies evaluate access to broadband in their communities. These ready-to-use layers allow instant access to publicly-available, fully documented and ready-to-analyze data sourced from the Census Bureau.
Together, these datasets can help address issues of digital equity and ensure that all individuals and communities, including the most disadvantaged, have access to, and use of, information and communication technologies. To learn more about these datasets and how you can incorporate them into your work, please see the Broadband Availability and Adoption Story Map.