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The FCC Broadband Data Collection System became operational today, paving the way for the U.S. to have more accurate broadband availability information, something the country has sorely lacked for years.

Broadband network operators can begin entering data into the system to detail where they offer service on a location-by-location basis. The operators are required to input this information by September 1.

As FCC Chair Jessica Rosenworcel explained in a post on the commission’s website, the commission has created a dataset of all locations in the U.S. where fixed broadband can be installed. The dataset is known as a “fabric” and all locations have been geocoded.

The upshot is that broadband availability data should be much more accurate once the broadband map is updated. Currently, an entire census block is considered to have service even if only a single location has service available to it.

Rosenworcel also noted that the commission has launched a new online help center, with “dedicated staff providing technical assistance, online video tutorials and webinars explaining the data submission process.” The resources are intended to help filers obtain assistance with data submissions.

The maps are “built to improve” and will be made available to those wanting to challenge the data submitted, Rosenworcel noted.

“The best map is one that improves over time with everyone’s experiences baked in,” she said.

About 2500 network operators are required to make BDC filings, according to Rosenworcel’s post.

The updated U.S. broadband map will play a key role in the $42.5 billion Broadband Access Equity and Deployment (BEAD) program and other funding programs that are designed to cover some of the costs of deploying broadband to unserved and underserved rural areas. Knowing precisely whether a location is served will be critical to the success of that program.

Those Americans who are living without broadband are eager to get service and the FCC has tried hard to convey a sense of urgency about the Broadband Data Collection process. Earlier this month the commission issued an Enforcement Advisory reminding network operators of the September 1 filing deadline and stating that failure to timely file the required data in the BDC system may lead to enforcement action and/or penalties.   

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