Service providers had until September 1 to submit broadband availability data into the FCC Broadband Data Collection system. FCC Chair Jessica Rosenworcel took the opportunity on Friday to highlight the commission’s efforts to update broadband availability information in a post on the FCC Site, in which she also noted that the first draft of the updated broadband map is expected in November.
In addition, she said a challenge process for broadband serviceable location data will begin September 12. There also will be a challenge process when the maps are released, Rosenworcel said.
Updated Broadband Map
There is a lot riding on the updated broadband map – including the $42.5 billion NTIA Broadband Equity Access and Deployment (BEAD) program and the second round of funding in the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF) program, which has a multi-billion-dollar budget as well.
NTIA plans to use the FCC broadband availability data to determine how much money the agency will award to each state in the BEAD program for distribution to service providers to cover some of the costs of deployments to unserved rural areas. The FCC data also is intended to be used in both BEAD and RDOF and in other funding programs to determine locations that are eligible for funding because they lack broadband service.
A lot of pressure has been put on the FCC to update the map as quickly as possible so that rural broadband deployments can get underway as soon as possible. Accordingly, service providers were given a relatively short period of time – June 30 to September 1 – to enter data into the Broadband Data Collection system for the first draft of the national broadband map. A follow-on data collection process is expected at a later date.
The desire to get the broadband map updated as soon as possible also may have driven the decision to conduct the challenge process for the broadband serviceable location data after the initial broadband data collection was completed.
The broadband serviceable location data is a database of broadband serviceable locations that was created by a company contracted by the FCC. It was designed so that service providers could input the broadband service available at each location that they serve.
According to one company that consulted with 35 to 40 service providers on the data input process, the broadband serviceable location data needs a lot of clean-up work. Some providers were unable to locate as much as 20% of locations in their service area in the location fabric, even after an initial clean-up process, noted Paul Solsrud, product manager for the consulting firm, Cooperative Network Services.
Solsrud is concerned that service providers may not have the resources to provide the FCC with the information that the agency has requested for locations being challenged. He noted, for example, that providers may not know address information for locations they don’t serve.
It’s also worth noting that, according to the seven-page Bulk Fabric Challenge Specs, the FCC is asking challengers to fill in 16 fields for each location challenged. Another concern is that the public notice about the challenge process does not provide a deadline for when challenges must be filed.
The FCC is planning an informational webinar tomorrow that potential challengers are invited to attend. Perhaps the commission will address these concerns on the webinar, which will stream tomorrow at 2:00 p.m. ET on the FCC site.