The CANIS Lab is excited to be working on #CellWatch, led by Dr. Ellen Zegura from Georgia Tech and in collaboration with Dr. Elizabeth Belding from UCSB.
If you live here in the Four Corners, you have probably had some bad experiences with mobile broadband connectivity (3G/4G/LTE/5G). Personally speaking, there have been many times where I had to prepare for drives along major highways in the area by downloading podcasts for offline listening. One of the major challenges for getting better mobile broadband is understanding where high quality coverage actually exists. In the past, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) relied on maps provided by cellular service providers to determine where coverage was, but after several studies (including one of ours!), it became apparent that these maps often overstated coverage in rural and tribal areas. This is a huge problem because these maps are used to help allocate funds for broadband---so if the FCC thinks your community is well covered according to the National Broadband Map, then your community is not likely to be eligible to receive support to build out new broadband infrastructure.
To try to address this, the FCC initiated a new Broadband Data Collection process that would let citizens contribute data to help inform the National Broadband Map. The CellWatch team intends for CellWatch to enable citizens to map their own networks and challenge the FCC through CellWatch’s three-prong project:
CellWatch Mobile Application: The Android measurement app will be built to comply with FCC requirements so users can successfully challenge provider coverage claims. A backend database will maintain data security and allow aggregation of measurements from different sources.
CellWatch Community Coordination Tool: This interactive dashboard and map will aid citizens in organizing campaigns to challenge providers while meeting FCC requirements.
CellWatch Prediction: Machine learning algorithms will predict mobile broadband performance using data collected by CellWatch tools and other public datasets.
All tools will be publicly available and open source to enable access for everyone. Ultimately, CellWatch’s goal is to let citizens into the reporting process to democratize coverage data and eventually collect enough data that the process can be automated.