The FCC said it will release a pre-production draft of an updated broadband map on November 18. The commission noted that this will “begin an ongoing, iterative process that will improve the data submitted by providers by incorporating challenges from individual and other stakeholders.”
Updating the broadband map is important because it will be used in awarding an unprecedented level of federal funding for broadband deployments in unserved areas. Current broadband availability maps do not provide accurate information about broadband availability because an entire census block is considered to have service available to it even if only a single location can get broadband.
Of particular concern is the Broadband Access Equity and Deployment (BEAD) program, which has a budget of $42.5 billion for broadband deployments. The updated FCC map will be used to determine each state’s percentage of total unserved locations in the U.S. and funding will be allocated commensurately.
Updated Broadband Map
The version of the map that will be released on November 18 won’t be ready to support that task, sources have told Telecompetitor.
The map will be based on data submitted by broadband providers as of June 30 of this year. Providers entered availability information into a database of addresses known as a “location fabric.” The fabric, created by a third party contracted by the FCC, was intended to include the address and geolocation data (latitude and longitude) for every broadband serviceable location in the U.S.
Sources have found numerous errors in the location fabric, however. The state of New York, for example, created its own broadband map and found more than 31,000 unserved addresses that weren’t in the FCC location fabric.
This isn’t surprising, considering that stakeholders didn’t have the opportunity to review and challenge the location fabric before broadband providers began entering data into it. This occurred because the FCC wanted to get the broadband map ready as quickly as possible because of its importance to broadband funding programs.
Providers had between June 30 and September 1 to enter data into the location fabric. The challenge process for the location fabric began on September 12.
According to a separate release from NTIA today, those wanting to challenge the fabric or the November 18 version of the broadband map are advised to submit challenges by January 13, 2023 in time for the FCC to include corrections in the final version of the map that will be used to allocate BEAD funding in the summer of 2023. NTIA is the BEAD program administrator.
The commission noted that the challenge process is underway in today’s press release. Providers, states, and local and tribal governments have already been able to make challenges. Once the draft map is launched, individuals will also be able to submit challenges, the commission said.
Updated to include related information from NTIA