Industry and other internet-focused observers react to national broadband map launch: Broadband Breakfast

WASHINGTON, November 18, 2022 — The Federal Communications Commission released the initial version of its long-awaited National Broadband Map, which currently shows availability data reported by broadband providers across the country based on public submissions. Challenge to update.

The map shows address-level performance and provider data for fixed and mobile broadband, aggregated into larger regions such as states, counties, census tracts, and congressional districts. Data can be examined through the digital interface of the navigation map or by searching by state or address. The map also shows coverage data by provider.

To correct inevitable errors, the FCC is soliciting challenges to data submitted by map vendors.

According to the FCC’s mapping data, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration will allocate funds to states from the Broadband Equity, Access and Deployment Program, a $42.45 fund authorized by the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act of 2021.

To ensure that valid challenges are included in the map before an allocation decision is made, NTIA encourages the public to submit challenges by January 13, 2023.

Once states receive BEAD grants, they will run sub-grant programs that earmark funds for personal broadband deployment and related projects. Many states already have their own broadband maps, which could significantly affect the eventual disbursement of BEAD funds for projects. What’s more, they don’t need to follow the FCC’s lead and can rely more on speed test data if they see fit.

The map is based on “fabric,” a nationwide dataset of all locations where fixed broadband is or may be installed. It was created by the committee’s contractor, CostQuest Associates. The FCC began accepting challenges to the fabric data in September.

Challenges Facing the FCC Structure

CostQuest CEO to Speak Thursday at Broadband Breakfast’s Digital Infrastructure Investing Session James Stegman Acknowledged that if the state broadband office decided to challenge the agency’s data, they could be stymied by commercial agreements with data providers.

The dilemma came when state broadband offices said they could run into legal trouble challenging the FCC’s mapping data because a third-party data provider didn’t allow its data to fall into the hands of rival CostQuest.

“It’s a problem, but I’m not sure how you solve it,” Stegeman said. “It’s not necessarily an issue with the FCC — it’s actually those third parties that have raised issues with the states.”

After New York announced in late October that more than 31,500 missing positions had been submitted, Fierce Telecom reported that CostQuest vice president mike wilson Say New York’s challenges represent a tiny fraction of the state’s total locations — about 0.66 percent.

According to Wilson, the New York challenge was “in line with our expected potential error rate” for the first draft of the fabric.

Wilson, industry experts, and the FCC itself all emphasized the importance of the iterative nature of the challenge process in creating a high-quality national broadband map.

But can states fully participate in the fabric challenge process?

However, the effectiveness of the challenge process depends on the ability of countries and other stakeholders to actively participate in the challenge process. On a recent Broadband Breakfast Live Online panel, Adam CarpenterMany states are contractually prohibited from doing so, according to the chief data officer for the Montana executive branch.

According to Carpenter, Montana leases proprietary map data — the data needed to fully participate in the Fabric Challenge process — from a state contractor. However, the licensing agreement prevents this data from being shared as a challenge to the FCC because, under a contractual agreement, CostQuest can lease the challenge data for use in its commercial map product.

“If you lease that data from one private entity, you can’t give it to another private entity,” Carpenter said. “That puts us in a position where we either don’t challenge the FCC map, we’re in breach of our contract and get sued, or we’re going to have some agreement to partially challenge the FCC map where it’s in our favor.”

Many states are facing Montana’s dilemma, Carpenter said.

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