State agencies are asking residents to take the N.C. Broadband Survey to help determine which areas are unserved or underserved. It’s an important effort, as the survey will help ensure that the plethora of taxpayer dollars funneled toward broadband infrastructure goes to the places that need them most.

The survey, a collaboration between the N.C. Department of Information Technology’s Broadband Infrastructure Office and N.C. State University, can be taken here. It seeks to gather information on locations within North Carolina without adequate access and speeds to help guide where funds from the state’s Growing Rural Economies with Access to Technology grants and federal stimulus broadband money will go.

Officials say the survey will better help pinpoint locations without service than the current, more general internet access maps.

“We hear all of the time how someone’s neighbor has great internet, while just down the road they can’t get any service, yet the map will show full coverage,” Russ Harris, executive director of the Southwestern Commission, told The Southern Scoop News. “In just five minutes, residents can tell the state exactly where they live and the service they have, and the funders can see in real-time where the holes in coverage are.”

The John Locke Foundation last year called on state officials to better determine which areas of North Carolina are unserved for the purposes of broadband expansion, asking the General Assembly to require the N.C. Utilities Commission to quickly adjudicate disputes that arise over pole attachments in unserved and rural areas.

Jon Sanders, Research editor senior fellow in Regulatory Studies at JLF, noted the Federal Communications Commission drilled down to the census tract in determining winning bids for the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund, and a whopping 155,000 areas were eligible in North Carolina. 

“Maps will need to be accurate to avoid channeling resources into areas that have more service,” Sanders told Carolina Journal. “If we are going to use public money for this undertaking, then the neediest areas should receive the highest priority.”

Critics have said inaccurate mapping has led to overbuilding and taxpayer waste. Last summer, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration released its own broadband deployment map. While it corrected some errors regarding unserved areas from older FCC maps, the NTIA effort had its detractors. NCTA — The Internet and Television Association said the new map “obscured, rather than clarified, the true state of broadband with this mashup of disparate, and often inaccurate, data sources.”

Efforts are underway at the federal level to improve mapping across the country, as well. Funding for broadband expansion through the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act will not be distributed until more accurate maps are developed. Broadband Breakfast noted that’s to avoid the issues that have occurred with overbuilding through the FCC’s Rural Digital Opportunity Fund.