The Federal Communications Commission has launched a new map designed to show consumers what kind of cellular coverage they can expect in a given area from AT&T, T-Mobile, US Cellular, and Verizon. It’s been a long time coming, and it doesn’t address home internet availability, but it looks like an improvement over the agency’s woefully inadequate and inaccurate past attempts to show gaps in the nation’s broadband coverage.
As Verge editor-in-chief Nilay Patel pointed out on Twitter, it shouldn’t have taken this long for this map to be available. The law requiring that these maps be made, known as the Broadband Deployment Accuracy and Technological Availability (DATA) Act, was signed in March 2020, and the lack of details about broadband coverage has created confusion about the so-called digital divide for years.
It’s also worth noting that the map isn’t based on data that the FCC collected or crowdsourced. FCC acting chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel said in a news release that the data was provided by the carriers who don’t have a great reputation for having the most accurate picture of where they do and don’t provide broadband (though the FCC is working on getting a better picture of home internet availability, and The Verge and Consumer Reports are working on examining how cost-effective broadband is). The map also doesn’t address the issue with home internet availability, which has been a long-running concern.