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FCC Chairman Ajit Pai. Photo: Ethan Miller/Getty Images.

The Federal Communications Commission voted on Thursday to require broadband service providers like Comcast and Verizon to provide more granular information about where their services are available in order to create more precise broadband maps.

Why it matters: The agency uses its maps to determine where billions of dollars in broadband subsidies should be allocated. But the mapping data used has long been criticized for overstating the availability of broadband services and speeds to consumers, especially in rural areas where coverage is spotty.

How it works: The FCC currently requires fixed broadband service providers — not wireless providers — to report broadband availability by census block.

  • The catch: Companies can report that a census block is served even if only one household is hooked up to the service.
  • As a result, existing data may show services are available even where consumers can't get access — meaning the entire census block is not eligible for federal subsidies to expand broadband service.

The new requirements will make service providers report broadband access using "shapefiles," which are a more precise measurement to indicate where companies have broadband networks.

  • The FCC also said it will accept feedback from the public and local governments to make sure the data is accurate.

The other side: Democratic commissioners said they were disappointed the agency didn't commit to publishing the data in the National Broadband Map. Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel said affordability and price should be accounted for in the map, in addition to availability.

Go deeper

2 hours ago - Health

U.S. surpasses 25 million COVID cases

A mass COVID-19 vaccination site at Dodger Stadium on Jan. 22 in Los Angeles, California. Photo: Mario Tama/Getty Images

The U.S has confirmed more than 25 million coronavirus cases, per Johns Hopkins data updated on Sunday.

The big picture: President Biden has said he expects the country's death toll to exceed 500,000 people by next month, as the rate of deaths due to the virus continues to escalate.

GOP implosion: Trump threats, payback

Spotted last week on a work van in Evansville, Ind. Photo: Sam Owens/The Evansville Courier & Press via Reuters

The GOP is getting torn apart by a spreading revolt against party leaders for failing to stand up for former President Trump and punish his critics.

Why it matters: Republican leaders suffered a nightmarish two months in Washington. Outside the nation’s capital, it's even worse.

Erica Pandey, author of @Work
6 hours ago - Economy & Business

The limits of Biden's plan to cancel student debt

Data: New York Fed Consumer Credit Panel/Equifax; Chart: Axios Visuals

There’s a growing consensus among Americans who want President Biden to cancel student debt — but addressing the ballooning debt burden is much more complicated than it seems.

Why it matters: Student debt is stopping millions of Americans from buying homes, buying cars and starting families. And the crisis is rapidly getting worse.