FCC National Broadband Map

Though the challenge process for the Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment (BEAD) Program is intended to create more accurate broadband maps, the Institute for Local Self-Reliance (ILSR) warns that the opposite may happen. If, during the challenge process, a local broadband provider promises they can provide speeds and services in a particular community—but are overstating their abilities or simply making false claims—the resulting broadband coverage maps will be less accurate.

NTIA requires states to determine areas eligible for BEAD funding via a three-stage process: challenges to existing National Broadband Map data, rebuttal, and determination. ILSR is urging community representatives—including local government leaders, nonprofit organizations, and Tribal entities—to get involved in the rebuttal stage to verify that the claims made by broadband providers in the challenge stage are realistic.

ILSR highlights three types of broadband provider challenges that may warrant the attention and rebuttal of community representatives:

  1. Planned service. If a broadband provider claims they can provide service to a community if and when they receive BEAD Program funding, community representatives can file a rebuttal if they think the provider’s claims—regarding timeline, budget, permissions, etc.—are unrealistic. Residents and leaders with first-hand experience of a community may have a better understanding of the complexities involved in undertaking a network expansion project in their area.
  2. Enforceable commitments. If a broadband provider has already received funding to expand their network, but has not yet completed that work, they have an enforceable commitment to the area covered by the funding. The ILSR warns, though, that providers may claim to have an enforceable commitment to a geographic area even though the funding they received does not cover all locations within that area. Community representatives should look closely at enforceable commitment challenges to see whether or not their claims are accurate.
  3. Community anchor institutions (CAI) and gigabit service. In some states, funding is available to bring gigabit service to CAIs. ILSR cautions that broadband providers could—during the challenge process—claim that they already offer gigabit service to a CAI, to prevent another provider from having access to that opportunity. ILSR recommends that underserved CAIs watch those challenges carefully and rebut them if needed.

ILSR points out that the challenge period is already complete in more than thirty states, and the rebuttal period has begun or will soon. ILSR has created a BEAD challenge guide to help community leaders navigate the challenge and rebuttal processes. “Communities—” they caution, “don’t sleep on the rebuttal window!”

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