CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The U.S. Senate Broadband Caucus hosted on Tuesday a panel discussion with private and public leaders on addressing the challenges with providing broadband internet across the country.

The caucus, in which Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., is a member, hosted the event to foster talks on providing better services through actions such as ensuring service maps are accurate.

“If those of us are left behind in the digital divide aren’t able to close that divide, we’re going to drag the rest of our states and our regions down with us,” Capito said. “We want to see a lot of equity between urban and rural, and getting good accuracy on our maps is something that’s exceedingly important.”

James Assey, the executive vice president of the NCTA – The Internet & Television Association, said broadband mapping is an important tool.

“The map is just a tool to figure out where we don’t have broadband. For that reason, it’s important that the strategy we use to try, shape and make the map as accurate as we can reflect the goals we are trying to achieve here,” he said.

“When we think about what it’s going to take to provide broadband, particularly in rural America, there are no questions that there are challenges. There are challenges of demography, and there are challenges of technology,” Assey also noted.

The NCTA – The Internet & Television Association is a trade organization that represents the cable industry.

According to Assey, the group is looking at census data to push the Federal Communications Commission for a better understanding of where services need to be more efficient.

Doug Kinkoph, the associate administrator of the Office of Telecommunications and Applications, said broadband internet access is key for economic growth in rural communities.

“You’re having an outpouring of populations as it is. Youth aren’t coming back after graduating from college or other schooling,” he said. “It’s important that they have something that they can come back to that they can have home businesses and stay on the farm to grow that.”

The National Telecommunications and Information Administration, who Kinkoph also represented, is working on a pilot program in eight states — California, Utah, Minnesota, North Carolina, Massachusetts, Maine, Tennessee and West Virginia — to collect data and better measure broadband access.

Kinkoph added the NTIA is cooperating with other organizations to compare data and understand trends related to broadband internet.

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