The FCC released what it is calling a “pre-production draft” of the updated national broadband map today.
In a press release, FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel called the draft map “the first step in a long-term effort to continuously improve our data as consumers, providers and others share information with us.”
The map will play a key role in determining where funding will be made available to cover some of the costs of deploying broadband in areas where it isn’t available today. The map is intended to include every broadband serviceable address in the country and to indicate where broadband is and is not available on a location-by-location basis.
Today’s first draft is expected to require a considerable amount of correction, however. Some sources have told us that it is missing a considerable number of addresses, while others have told us that boulders, swamps and the like have been misidentified as serviceable locations.
The FCC was under pressure to begin collecting broadband availability information from providers and began that collection prior to scheduling a challenge process for the broadband serviceable location data, known as the location fabric.
Accompanying the interactive first draft of the map released today are several web pages of supporting material, including instructions for filing challenges to the broadband serviceable location fabric or to data indicating where providers have service available.
Providers will be required to concede or dispute challenges and if they lose a challenge, fail to dispute it, or concede it, they will have 30 days to update their broadband availability data accordingly.
National Broadband Map Update
The FCC broadband map will be of particular importance to NTIA, which will be responsible for the $42.5 billion that Congress has made available for rural broadband deployments in the Broadband Equity Access and Deployment (BEAD) program. The funding is to be allocated to individual states based on the number of unserved locations in each state and the FCC map will be used to determine each state’s allocation.
Although stakeholders will be able to submit challenges to the broadband availability data at any time, NTIA has encouraged those wishing to file challenges to do so by January 13, 2023 in order for the challenges to be incorporated in the final version of the map that will be used to allocate BEAD funding in the summer of 2023.
Neither the FCC nor NTIA has yet announced when an updated broadband serviceable location fabric would be made available or when providers would be able to begin entering updated availability information into that fabric.
According to the web page material accompanying the broadband map, however, providers will be required to submit updated broadband availability data twice yearly—by September 1 for availability data as of June 30 and by March 31 for availability data as of the end of the previous year.
The FCC did not immediately reply to an inquiry from Telecompetitor asking if the March 31 deadline would apply for 2023. But if it that deadline does apply, the FCC will have a relatively short time to update the location fabric to reflect challenges as of January 13, 2023. The commission gave providers two months to enter the data on which today’s map was based and if the commission allows the same amount of time for the second data collection and if March 31 is the deadline, the updated location fabric would have to be finished by January 31.