Special to the News-Times
LUFKIN — The Federal Communications Commission recently released a map showing what it believes are the types and speeds of internet service available to every household in Deep East Texas.
The map was built with information from the internet providers, including those in our region.
Rural leaders from throughout Texas have voiced concerns that the map exaggerates the actual service that is available to Texans, especially those in rural communities. There is a process for individual households and communities to challenge the map data, and the Deep East Texas Council of Governments is urging residents to look at the map and report inaccuracies.
DETCOG is working on a region-wide bulk challenge; however, the individual household challenges are an important part of this process.
The verification is important in that more than $40 billion from the federal government will soon be sent to states to expand internet connections. The new FCC map will determine how that money is allocated among the states, with funding allocated based on the number of unconnected homes on the map.
DETCOG’s goal is to help ensure the State of Texas receives its fair share of this funding. If only 1 percent of the map is inaccurate, 100,000 or more Texas homes could remain unserved. The problem is thought to be even greater in rural areas, where some estimates are that the inaccuracies may be as high as 25 percent.
In Deep East Texas that could equate to more than 31,000 homes.
The timeline to participate in the challenge process is short. The deadline for challenges is Jan. 13, 2023. The process requires household residents to review their addresses on the map and report, with evidence, any errors.
How to Submit a Challenge
To look at your residence on the map, go to: https://broadbandmap.fcc.gov/home. Households that do not have internet access can get help at your local library or use the wi-fi at a local fast-food restaurant. On the home page, you can place your address in the “search by address” window, which will show your location on the map. It will also show the internet providers at your home and the type of service each provides.
Once an address is entered, the map will zoom in and show what has been reported as available:
The Texas Broadband Development Office has also provided more details on how to submit a challenge at https://comptroller.texas.gov/programs/broadband/communities/maps/fcc/. As many who most need the service may not be able to get onto the internet to complete the task, you may contact DETCOG at (936) 634-2247 for help.
Challenges can be based on several basis, including that the provider denied a request for service, demanded excessive connection fees or failed to schedule an installation within 10 business days of a request. Once a challenge is filed, providers are required to review the challenge and either concede or dispute it within 60 days.
Reasons you can submit an availability challenge as described by the Texas Broadband Office include:
•Provider failed to schedule a service installation within 10 business days of a request.
•Provider did not install the service at the agreed-upon time.
•Provider requested more than the standard installation fee to connect this location.
•Provider denied the request for service.
•Provider does not offer the technology or service type at this location.
•Reported speed is not available for purchase.
•Subscribed speed is not achievable. (Individuals only can select this option (on the map), but it won’t create a challenge.)
•No wireless signal is available at this location.
•New, non-standard equipment is required to connect this location.
If one of the services listed is not actually offered to the selected location, or if the providers listed do not actually serve your location, you can submit an availability challenge.