LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — A map of broadband coverage in the United States shows just how far rural Nevada has to go in the race for robust internet service.
Before updates began in 2022, the map showed vast holes in broadband coverage in Nevada, where 85.9% of the land is owned by the federal government.
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is building the map as part of the program that will award $42.5 billion in funding. The BEAD (Broadband Equity, Access and Deployment) Program has been described as the single largest broadband investment in U.S. history, laying the groundwork for widespread access, affordability, equity and adoption of broadband services.
Currently, the FCC is accepting challenges to the preliminary map. But the deadline to submit challenges is tomorrow — Friday, Jan. 13.
The state has been working with rural counties to coordinate applications for funding. The BEAD funding is expected to be awarded by June 30 of this year, and will use the FCC’s map in making decisions about where to spend the money.
To see what the FCC knows about broadband service at your location, go to www.fcc.gov/BroadbandData/consumers, and enter your address. Points on the map will appear as you zoom in. A YouTube video describes the steps for disputing the information the FCC has on file.
The FCC used data from internet service providers to create the map, but it didn’t stop there. Feedback from the public is giving the FCC a better idea of the true picture that consumers and businesses are dealing with.
John Christian, of the Lincoln County Telephone System, said he has seen updates on the map that have given his company credit for the work that’s already been done. But he has heard customers’ complaints loud and clear through the years.
Some Lincoln County residents have grown impatient and fed up with the costs for broadband. Christian said customers sometimes have so many devices hooked up to their networks that the service still can’t keep up.
For some, Starlink has been the answer. For those willing to pay for a satellite dish and $110 a month, it’s been a solution. One resident who responded to an informal Facebook survey said he has “PS4 gaming online, 2 phones streaming videos and a laptop simultaneously with no lag.” Another said, “The monthly cost is only about $7 more than we were paying before. But we can stream on 2 tvs, run 3 phones and a tablet without buffering issues. Occasional weather interference is the only complaint and that’s a reach.”
The phone company is trying to meet demand, but the barriers are formidable. The federal funding could be an important part of the solution.
County commissioners in Lincoln and Eureka counties say Bureau of Land Management ownership creates red tape that makes progress extremely slow.
The pandemic was a wake-up call, exposing families’ poor connectivity as remote learning became the rule of the day. If Las Vegas had problems with education, the problem was much worse where the availability of broadband was sparse.
The plight of one Lincoln County teacher summarized the situation: “I’m a teacher, and it would be amazing if I could do lesson planning, grading, and digital content curating from home,” she said in a Facebook post. “However, the internet at home crashes or is so slow that it’s near impossible to get anything done. The substandard internet also hinders professional development online classes and meetings that take after work hours. I usually have to drive 11 miles to the school on days off to take care of things I could do from home if the internet was better.”
Eureka County Commission Chairman J.J. Goicoechea said the problem hasn’t gone away. Many students never returned to the classroom in rural Nevada.
But education isn’t the sole reason the federal government’s interest in improving broadband for Americans. Business and equity are also part of the equation. One state official described broadband as an “economic building block.”
8 News Now will continue reporting on this issue leading up June 30, when funding announcements are expected.