It’s unfortunate that this couldn’t have happened sooner, but the FCC recently released a public notice seeking input on the challenge process for the Broadband Data Collection (BDC) that the commission undertakes twice yearly. Broadband providers are required to report on broadband availability, and the data ultimately is used to update the National Broadband Map.

“We request input on the extent to which stakeholders are participating in the challenge processes, whether they find the challenge processes to be ‘user-friendly,’ and, if not, what improvements the commission can make to its processes to make participation more user-friendly,” the FCC wrote in the public notice.

The commission also said it wants input on “the effectiveness of the challenge processes in improving the quality and accuracy of our broadband availability data.”

Additionally, the public notice asks, “Does the fixed availability challenge process appropriately balance the time, expense, and burden to entities and individuals in challenging the accuracy of the maps, on the one hand, and to providers in responding to challenges on the other hand?”

The move comes seven months after state allocations were made in the $42.5 billion BEAD rural broadband funding – allocations that were based on the National Broadband Map as it existed at that time.

The process for creating the map was rushed, and some stakeholders had asked for additional time to make challenges to the map data, but BEAD administrators at NTIA opted not to extend the challenge timeline because they wanted the BEAD program to proceed promptly.

Details on Challenge Results

In the public notice about the FCC broadband map challenge process, the commission also provided considerable detail about challenges to broadband availability and broadband serviceable location data over the past year or so — more detail more quickly than the commission provided about previous periods.

Key details about the availability challenge process over the 12-month period between November 2022 and November 2023:

  • Approximately 3.7 million fixed availability challenges were submitted to providers for response. The vast majority were from the bulk challenge process. (Bulk challenges are those that can only be filed by state governments and certain other entities.)
  • 140 entities submitted bulk fixed availability challenges
  • More than 2.2 million were conceded by providers
  • 866,000 challenges were disputed by providers and ultimately adjudicated by FCC staff; of those, approximately 276,000 were upheld by the FCC in favor of the challenger and approximately 590,000 were overturned

Key details about the broadband serviceable location challenge process between September 12, 2022 and October 22, 2023:

  • Approximately 9.2 million challenges were received, including about 7.7 million to add new locations and about 1.6 million for other categories of location challenges
  • Here, too, the vast majority were bulk challenges
  • The FCC upheld over 497,00 challenges seeking to add locations and approximately 1.2 million of the challenges for other categories of location challenges

The 10-page public notice about the FCC broadband map challenge process asks dozens of questions that commenters are invited to answer. See details at this link.

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