As a member of the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee, U.S. Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) included three amendments to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Reauthorization Act that will improve broadband coverage in West Virginia.
“As a Senator representing a rural state, I know how important access to communication services is to public safety, economic development, healthcare and education,” Manchin said. “Over the last decade, the industry has made great strides in building out broadband infrastructure, but significant coverage gaps still exist in West Virginia and across rural America. My amendments will ensure the FCC is able to gather a more accurate picture of the actual broadband coverage available to West Virginians. The job is not done in rural America, and we must ensure that Washington gets that message.”
Manchin’s priorities that were included in the final bill are below:
• Wireless Mapping Amendment: The amendment would require the FCC to study the feasibility of conducting mobile broadband coverage drive testing in rural areas to map where coverage exists, and, even more importantly, where it still needs to be delivered. While the FCC has declared that over 99 percent of the U.S. population was covered by some form of mobile broadband technology, the reality on the ground in West Virginia is much different. Senator Manchin’s amendment is an important step in his efforts to bring service everywhere.
• GAO Report on Broadband Mapping: The amendment directs the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to report to Congress on what steps the FCC is taking to ensure the broadband data it collects is accurate, complete, and reliable. As Senator Manchin has said, coverage maps in Washington, DC do not tell the story of the reality on the ground in West Virginia. This amendment directs GAO to report to Congress on what the FCC is doing to address these gaps.
• Telehealth Report: The amendment requires the FCC to evaluate and report to Congress on whether the FCC’s Rural Health Care Program has provided sufficient funding and support for health care services in rural areas. In a rural state like West Virginia, those in need often have to travel even further to have access to health care. This is an important effort to making sure rural West Virginians are able to access 21st century health services and are not left on the wrong side of this critical digital divide.