NTIA is in “close coordination” with the FCC regarding the update to the second version of the National Broadband Map, which will be used to determine state BEAD allocations, an NTIA spokesperson told Telecompetitor in late February.

“We are working with our colleagues at the FCC to determine when we will obtain the version of the map to use for our BEAD allocations,” the spokesperson said.

NTIA is scheduled to release state BEAD allocations by June 30 and undoubtedly will need some time to work with the FCC data before it can determine those allocations.

A bill introduced in the Senate Friday would delay that date to give the FCC time to fix what the bill sponsors called a “deeply flawed” map, but some states are unlikely to support that bill as they say the map is good enough and do not want delays.

Assuming the June 30 date holds, the NTIA spokesperson confirmed that allocations will be based on version two of the map’s location database plus results of broadband data availability challenges adjudicated during the spring of 2023.

What does that mean, exactly?

To answer that, you would have to have been closely following the ongoing saga of the broadband map update. Telecompetitor has done that, and we have summarized the results in a table.

National Broadband Map- Key Dates

Based on Version 1Version 2Version 3
Provider-reported availability data as of…Jun. 30, 2022Dec. 31, 2022Jun. 30, 2023
Location database reflecting bulk challenges adjudicated by…No challenge process was completed prior to releaseNov. 10, 2022~Mar. 15, 2023
Availability data due from providers…Sept. 1, 2022Mar. 1, 2023Sept. 1, 2023
Date to file availability challenges to the previous version to be reflected in final version of the map…Not applicable
~Jan. 13, 2023Unknown
Final version releaseNov. 2022~May-Jun. 2023~Nov. -Dec. 2023
Source: Telecompetitor, FCC, NTIA

Location Data

The new broadband map update process put in place last year is designed to provide broadband availability information for every broadband serviceable location in the U.S. geocoded by latitude and longitude. The location database is designed to show all those locations but was created less than a year ago and stakeholders continue to challenge that data.

While challenges can be made at any time and are adjudicated according to an FCC timetable, the location database is only updated twice yearly—around late May and around late November.

The FCC and NTIA, the agency administering the BEAD program, have confirmed numerous times that version two of the map is based on the location database that was made public in November 2022. According to the FCC, it reflects bulk challenges made by November 10, 2022.

Availability Data

When each new location database is made available according to the twice-yearly schedule, providers have about two months to enter availability data. Availability data as of December 31 of the previous year is due March 1 and availability data as of June 30 is due September 1.

Version 2 of the map will be based on availability data as of December 31, 2022.

When the initial version of the map was released publicly in late November, it included the data that providers had filed showing availability as of June 30, 2022. Shortly after the map was released, the FCC opened a challenge process for that data.

NTIA subsequently encouraged stakeholders wanting to file bulk challenges to do so by January 13 to maximize the likelihood that the challenges would be addressed in time to be reflected in version two of the map that is expected to be made available publicly in May or June.

Although NTIA did not specify at that time that the January 13 date applied only to availability challenges, the agency later confirmed that to be true. (Per the timetable outlined above, it was already too late for location challenges.)

NTIA also encouraged stakeholders that could not meet the January 13 date to file availability challenges as soon as they could, as the challenges might be addressed in time to be reflected in the final version of the version two map.

Telecompetitor submitted several inquiries about the status of availability updates to the FCC recently, which the commission answered selectively. Although a spokesperson did not answer a question about whether the commission had finished adjudicating challenges filed by January 13, one state broadband office that filed bulk challenges by January 13 told us last week that a portion had been adjudicated and a portion had not yet been adjudicated.

FCC Chair Jessica Rosenworcel recently published a blog post touting all the challenges the commission had been adjudicating, citing a rate of thousands of availability challenges addressed per day.

The upshot is that state BEAD allocations will be based on the location database as of November 2022 and broadband availability as of December 2022, and reflecting availability challenges to the previous version of the map filed by around January 13, 2023.

Moving Forward

Some stakeholders wanted more time to file challenges prior to BEAD allocations, but the FCC said it couldn’t deviate from its twice-yearly update schedule and NTIA said it didn’t want to delay BEAD awards.

Those who argued against a delay said it was important to get the funding in the hands of network operators so that the operators could begin deploying broadband to unserved areas as soon as possible. Those stakeholders said further information would not materially impact the allocations.

Several state broadband directors have told Telecompetitor that they don’t anticipate challenging the allocations.

It’s also important to note that state broadband offices don’t have to use the FCC map to determine unserved areas in their states. Some states have done their own maps. And BEAD Director Evan Feinman has encouraged states to do their own challenge process to the FCC map data.

The process of updating the map will kick off again on June 30. Check our table for what we know about it now.

It’s worth noting that location challenges filed today likely won’t be reflected in version three of the location database, which is expected to be available near year-end. Back in January, the FCC encouraged stakeholders to file location challenges involving version two of the location database by March 15 to maximize the likelihood that the challenges would be adjudicated in time to be reflected in version three.

It’s also worth noting, though, that CostQuest, which created the location database, also does an ongoing self-audit process. According to the company, version two is more accurate than version one, and version three will be even better. Potentially a state could wait until version three is finalized near year-end before making any decisions requiring a broadband map.

Updated to correct several references suggesting that version two of the map was released in November 2022 to state instead that version two of the location database was released at that time and to clarify that the location database is released to service providers and state agencies.

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