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Screenshot: NTIA Indicators of Broadband Need map

The Biden administration Thursday unveiled a new mapping tool that shows much greater gaps in use of high-speed internet service across the U.S. than the government's previous maps reported.

Why it matters: The White House is pushing for big spending to provide more, better broadband service to underserved areas after the pandemic made Americans more dependent than ever on their internet connections.

  • The new, zoomable map draws on a wider pool of data than existing maps by the Federal Communications Commission, which relied exclusively on industry-provided data that overstated broadband penetration.

Driving the news: The map raises questions about the gap between internet availability and actual usage, with usage reports indicating wide swaths of the country are not making a home broadband connection.

  • The new "Indicators of Broadband Need" map, developed by the White House and the telecommunications branch of the Commerce Department, pulls together different data sets from Ookla, M-Lab, Microsoft, the Federal Communications Commission and the Census Bureau.
  • The overlapping data points are meant to paint a picture of the areas that need more, better broadband. The map also includes data on places that reported a lack of connection by computer, smartphone or tablet and information on broadband usage in high-poverty communities.

"What it tells you is there's a lot of places in the United States that aren't using the internet at broadband speeds," a White House official told Axios, estimating that means tens of millions of people.

The big picture: The Biden administration originally proposed a $100 billion investment in broadband as part of the American Jobs Plan infrastructure package.

  • “As we release this important data to the public, it paints a sobering view of the challenges facing far too many Americans as they try to connect to high-speed broadband and participate in our modern economy,” Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo said in a statement.

The intrigue: The map shows the gulf between the data set the FCC has used to map broadband availability and where Americans actually report using the internet.

  • The FCC relies on data supplied by internet service providers about where they could offer service.
  • Companies can report that a census block is served even if only one household has internet service — which leads to maps that overstates access.
  • "There's a large gap between what the carriers are saying is on offer to be used and what's actually being used," the White House official told Axios.

Yes, but: Acting FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel announced a broadband mapping task force earlier this year to improve the agency's data collection and mapping tools.

  • The FCC uses its maps to allocate billions of dollars of subsidies for broadband deployment.
  • The administration effort is not meant to replace those maps or guide broadband funding grants, the White House says.

What they're saying: "To ensure that every household has the internet access necessary for success in the digital age, we need better ways to accurately measure where high-speed service has reached Americans and where it has not,” Rosenworcel said in a statement.

  • The new map project is "a welcome new tool that provides valuable insight into the state of broadband across the country," she said.

Go deeper

John Frank, author of Denver
Sep 7, 2021 - Axios Denver

New political map draft is a political scramble

A draft map of congressional district boundaries released Sept. 3. Source: Colorado Independent Redistricting Commission

The first draft of congressional district maps drawn with new 2020 census data is a political mess.

Driving the news: The independent congressional redistricting commission's nonpartisan staff crafted the fresh political boundaries for the state's eight districts. The focus was the creation of a southern district and multiple districts with large portions of Latino voters.

Democrats fail to change Senate rules to pass voting rights bill

Senate Majority Leader during a news conference in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

Democrats failed Wednesday night to change Senate filibuster rules to pass the voting rights bill, with Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) voting with Republicans.

The big picture: The failed effort came after Senate Republicans blocked the voting rights measure from coming to a final vote earlier Wednesday.

Updated 3 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Supreme Court rejects Trump's attempt to shield documents from Jan. 6 committee

Photo: Melissa Sue Gerrits/Getty Images

The Supreme Court rejected on Wednesday night a bid by former President Trump to block the release of documents and records from his administration to the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol.

Why it matters: Trump asked the Supreme Court to step in and block the release of the documents last month after a panel on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit unanimously denied his attempt to prevent the committee from obtaining the materials.