The next update to the FCC National Broadband Map will be released May 30, said FCC senior officials today on a webcall with reporters. The map will reflect availability data reported by providers as of December 31, 2022, as well as challenges made more recently to that data.
It’s an important development, as this is the version of the map that will be used for making allocations to states in the $42.5 billion Broadband Equity Access and Deployment (BEAD) program. NTIA, which is administering the BEAD program, expects to announce those allotments by the end of June.
The commission has taken heat in the past about the accuracy of the map and may continue to do so. The call, however, offered some transparency about the mapping process, which may help temper any critiques.
FCC National Broadband Map Update
The commission has sent over four million challenges to broadband providers about reported availability data, the officials said. They did not provide data about the outcome of those challenges, but they did offer some details about the process.
When a provider receives a challenge, it has 60 days to either concede or challenge the challenge, the officials explained. If the provider concedes, the map is updated within two weeks to reflect that. If the provider challenges the challenges, the provider and challenger have 60 days to reach agreement.
If agreement can’t be reached, the FCC adjudicates the dispute, either upholding or overturning the data reported by the provider. No timeline was given on how long it takes the commission to do that.
The current FCC mapping process kicked off a year ago, replacing a previous system in which providers reported availability data by census block, rather than by location.
The schedule calls for the FCC map to be updated twice yearly – around this time of year and again around the end of November.
The FCC has taken some heat over the accuracy of the map, with some stakeholders saying the process was too rushed and the time allotted for challenges was insufficient and not clearly communicated. Some states have expressed concern that the location database, known as the fabric, does not show all broadband serviceable locations in the state.
The fabric is updated only twice yearly. Any challenges involving missing locations will not show on the map until the next version of the map at the earliest.
Even some of the stakeholders that have voiced concerns about the map’s accuracy, though, have argued that the state BEAD allocations should not be delayed.
Recently, NTIA issued several informational documents to the media justifying the use of the version of the FCC National Broadband Map that will be released Tuesday.
NTIA pointed to the fact that only one million net new locations, about 1% of the total, were added between the first version of the fabric, released a year ago, and the one on which the current map is based. These were “relatively modest” changes, NTIA said in the most recent of those informational documents, “and we can expect that changes between future versions of the FCC map will likely continue to be modest.”
Therefore, the impact that any additional challenges to the fabric would have on state allocations would also be modest because “the key variable in the BEAD allocation formula is the number of unserved locations in a state or territory relative to the total number of unserved locations nationwide,” NTIA said.
The map update should be available at this link on Tuesday.