US Map

In a public notice released yesterday, the FCC has established September 1, 2022 as the deadline for service providers to submit broadband availability data for inclusion in the long awaited update to the national broadband map. The schedule calls for the commission to begin accepting broadband availability data on June 30, 2022.

The FCC cautioned, however, that the deadline could be changed to an earlier date, depending on the outcome of a challenge to the commission’s award of a key contract on which the map update depends.

A lot is riding on the initiative to update the broadband map, as the government has allocated an unprecedented amount of funding to cover some of the costs of deploying high-speed broadband to areas that currently lack service. But it’s not clear which areas lack service based on current FCC broadband data because an entire census block is considered to have service even if service is only available to a single location.

FCC Broadband Data Collection

Back in March 2020, President Trump signed the Broadband DATA Act directing the FCC to correct this problem, but funding to enable the commission to do that was not made available until early 2021. With funding in hand, the commission conducted a competitive process to award the contract to create a broadband serviceable location fabric, defined as “a common dataset of all locations in the United States where fixed broadband internet access service can be installed.”

Although the public notice doesn’t name names, it notes that the Government Accountability Office (GAO) received a challenge relating to the company chosen to create the fabric.

As Telecompetitor learned on a December 2021 webcast organized by media outlet Broadband Breakfast, the company chosen to create the fabric is CostQuest Associates, the company that previously created the cost model that served as the basis for determining funding available to service providers to bring broadband to unserved areas in various FCC Universal Service Fund (USF) programs. And the challenging company is LightBox, a company that specializes in location fabrics.

“The protests of the fabric, while part of the competitive bid process required in the Broadband DATA Act, have impeded . . . our ability to move forward with obtaining the fabric data in advance of launching the BDC [broadband data collection],” the FCC explains in today’s public notice.

According to the public notice, however, the GAO has a deadline for resolving the protest and “[s]ubject to a favorable outcome of the fabric post-award protest, we believe that the BDC system will be ready to begin accepting data on June 30, 2022.”

It is also possible that the system will be ready prior to June 30, 2022, in which case, the commission may establish an earlier date when providers can begin submitting broadband availability data. If so, the deadline for data submission also would be made earlier but would be no sooner than 60 days after the date established for the system to begin accepting data.

In any case, the FCC urges providers not to wait until the deadline to file data, noting that the system has “automatic checks and validations that will prevent filers from submitting faulty data; thus, filers must correct any errors identified by the system prior to submitting and certifying a BDC filing, which they must do before the filing deadline.”

Additional information about the broadband data collection system can be found in the public notice at this link.  

Updated to state that funding to update the National Broadband Map was made available in early 2021

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