Regulators call on Wisconsinites to badger FCC to fact-check internet map

Regulators call on Wisconsinites to badger FCC to fact-check internet map

Service providers have told the federal government where they offer fast internet. Now it’s up to customers to check their work. 

The Federal Communications Commission recently unveiled an interactive mapping tool that shows availability of internet service at individual addresses, as reported by service providers. It is the most up-to-date and granular map of where high-speed service is and isn’t offered and will be used to steer billions of dollars in federal support to expand access.

The Public Service Commission is urging residents and businesses to “badger the FCC” by verifying the accuracy and submitting challenges. 

“An accurate map that shows broadband access in our state is critical to ensure Wisconsin receives our fair share of federal funding,” PSC Chair Rebecca Cameron Valcq said. “Local leaders and members of the public know their communities best, which is why we are earnestly calling on them to get involved in the broadband mapping challenge process.”

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The map will be used to direct some $42.5 billion in Broadband Equity, Access and Deployment (BEAD) funds authorized by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Act to help expand service to hard-to-reach places. 

The PSC expects Wisconsin will receive between $700 million and $1.1 billion, depending largely on the final maps. The agency has estimated it would cost up to $1.4 billion to make high-speed internet available to the roughly 650,000 residents currently without access. 

Users can go to and zoom in to see availability of different types of service at more than 2.3 million individual addresses and submit challenges if the information is inaccurate. 

The PSC has already submitted more than 7,000 challenges based on homes and businesses that are missing, but state broadband and digital equity director Alyssa Kenney said residents are the ones who know best.

“Sometimes we don’t know — is that a barn or a house?” Kenney said. “Do they both need access?” 

PSC challenge to FCC broadband map

A map of more than 7,000 locations the Public Service Commission says are missing from the Federal Communications Commission map of internet service availability. 

Customers are also able to challenge the map based on availability. 

In some cases the map indicates 25/3 mbps service is offered but when customers call, the provider says it’s not available or will cost more than the standard installation fee — sometimes thousands of dollars. In other cases, the service technician never shows up. 

That’s information we just don’t have,” Kenney said. “Those are really challenges best made by individuals.” 

Kenney said the new map represents a significant improvement from the previous version, which tracked service by Census block and tended to overstate the availability, especially in sparsely-populated rural areas. Those maps made it appear that service was offered in a large area when it might only be available to one or two homes.  

This is a really strong pivot,” Kenney said. “This is the first iteration of what will probably be a few years and a few rounds to get it right.” 

But there are shortfalls. 

For example, the map includes technologies like satellite service, which can be very expensive and not always reliable — but technically is available to 98% of all residents. 

“You have to be able to afford satellite,” said Doug King, a consultant who works from his home near Mount Horeb in the town of Perry. “When you toggle the settings to the more affordable cable/fiber option, then most parts around here go dark.”

King, who has been fighting with TDS Telecommunications since 2009 to upgrade service to the town, said the map becomes “even more silly” as homes purported to have 25/3 mbps service actually run much slower  — unless customers agree to bundle service with cable and telephone service.

Alyssa Kenney


Kenney would like to see future versions of the map reflect that reality.

“This map is focused on availability,” Kenney said. “That is not performance and not affordability. It’s a great first step. We’d like to see what are people actually experiencing in their home. And what’s the cost?”

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