Skip to main content

Discarding census-block counting is smart

August 12, 2019 07:57 pm

In today’s fast-paced economy, nothing happens until somebody sells something. But a new wrinkle has been added to the old aphorism: Nothing happens until somebody knows something. And that’s where access to information becomes so vital.

This is the reason changes are being made at the federal level to improve broadband mapping locally to make high-speed internet more accessible to rural communities. The technology is elaborate yet alarmingly simple as to methodology.

The Federal Communications Commission last week announced new procedures that will require internet service providers to supply more detailed information on where they offer service. More important, though, the FCC will end the practice of counting a census block as “served” if just a single home on the block has access.

“This is a positive step from the Federal Communications Commission to acknowledge the flawed processes of census-block mapping technologies that overcount rural communities and leave tens of thousands of upstate New Yorkers behind — and I’m glad to see the commission take a vote to end this practice,” U.S. Rep. Antonio Delgado, D-19, said.

The FCC’s goal is to better pinpoint where broadband access is available instead of declaring an entire area “covered” because of just a single customer. In the short term, more accurate information will make it easier for municipalities to apply for funds to expand access. But in the long term, it will enable municipalities to nail down broadband access to make themselves attractive to new businesses or to existing businesses that want to relocate.

Discarding the census-block system is a wise decision. It was dubious at best and pointless at worst. The direct mapping system stands as an uncomplicated way of reflecting the reality of broadband’s concentrations and gaps. It’s the kind of remedy that makes us wonder, Why didn’t we think of that?