When all else fails, try looking at a map. With all the fretting over the digital divide and where the US falls in broadband penetration rankings, House Telecom subcmte chmn Ed Markey (D-MA) is drafting legislation directing the NTIA to create a map showing broadband service availability across the country. Many have complained over the years that the FCC’s broadband data is inaccurate and sparse. NCTA stands behind the mapping idea, although industry head Kyle McSlarrow testified Thurs that Congress should "be careful today about anything we put in legislation that defines high-speed data or broadband" because the metrics are always changing. Case in point: the FCC currently defines broadband as a paltry 200kbps and higher. Markey’s House Telecom Committee draft deems high-speed as 2Mbps downstream/1Mbps upstream, even as telcos and cable are talking about offering speeds of 100Mbps plus. While Thurs’ witnesses were all in agreement that more data would be a good thing, several said the info collected should include all high-speed offerings, even if it’s only a couple hundred kilobits per sec. "The purpose is to figure out who has what," and speeds that are 4 times faster than dial-up can be meaningful to consumers, US Telecom Assn pres Walter McCormick said. On the other hand, McSlarrow raised concerns that a provider offering fast download speeds of 10Mbps but an upload stream of less than 1Mbps wouldn’t qualify as an HSD provider. A broadband map could be useful to the cable industry, which has long complained that the Dept Agriculture’s Rural Utilities Service broadband loan program grants money for providers to enter markets that already have one or more HSD providers. That program and others suffer somewhat because they partly depend on applicants to define unserved areas, McSlarrow said. Markey is trying to work with Republicans for bipartisan support and aims to introduce legislation in June.

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