Poor internet or no internet? Now’s the time to act.

About 16% of Chatham County residents said they did not have quality internet service, according to the Chatham County Community Assessment, and the internet was one of the two top issues in that survey. Primarily the internet service provider companies (Spectrum, CenturyLink, T-Mobile, etc.) decide who gets internet. Grants and other government programs can influence their decisions.

The Federal Communications Commission has just issued the National Broadband Map. This map contains 110 million locations. All internet providers submitted the highest level of internet service available at each of the map locations that they serve. It has been a massive effort. The FCC created the map because the Federal Government will allocate grants in the largest amount ever toward improving internet availability, the $43 billion Broadband, Equity, Access, and Deployment (BEAD) program.

The bad news is that if the new map has incorrect information about your address, and you have no internet or poor internet, you could miss out.

If you have poor internet or have no internet available at your residence, you should look up your address on the FCC map. broadbandmap.fcc.gov

The FCC is already in the process of allocating funds based on the initial version of the map, and they have given us only until Jan. 13 to correct information in the map before the allocations of the massive BEAD program in summer 2023.

The FCC says that it will base all new grants on its new map. So, if your house is not on the map or in the wrong location, or your provider wants a big fee to run a wire to your house to get their advertised service, or other bad info, you can challenge your information through the FCC map website. You can also use it to challenge the availability of mobile phone service.

Most challenges and complaints need documentation. Documentation about specific provider service needs things like the dates you called, who you spoke with, emails, screenshots, etc. The documentation has to be after June 2022 (the date the internet companies turned in their information). The FCC says it will be flexible in the kind of documentation it will accept. If you did not keep great documentation, it would be worth your effort to try again with your provider and collect everything. As you might expect, you have to state under penalty of perjury that your information is correct.

The FCC will aggregate all the challenge data and probably the areas with the most complaints will get the most attention, so it would be best to tell your neighborhood about this process.

Ironically, the FCC does not have any process for challenging or complaining about your lack of internet in this process other than using their map on the internet. The Chatham Public Libraries have internet and computers available for those without them. The FCC map will work on a mobile phone, but it may be difficult to upload documentation that way. If you get stuck and need help with this process, you can email help@innovatechatham.org, and we will try to help.

If internet issues of all kinds in Chatham are of interest to you, we will be having two public events in January to provide information about getting, affording and learning to use the internet, as well as getting public input to Chatham’s Digital Inclusion Plan intended to Help Chatham residents.

• Jan. 12, 5 pm, at 79°West, 367 Freedom Pkwy., Suite 130, Pittsboro

• Jan. 19, 5 pm, at NC Arts Incubator, 223 N. Chatham Ave., Siler City

Burney Waring is the president of Innovate Chatham, a nonprofit dedicated to helping Chatham County residents flourish through technology. He can be reached at warings@gmail.com