Industry and other internet-facing observers are reacting to the release of the National Broadband Map: Broadband Breakfast

WASHINGTON, Nov. 18, 2022 — The Federal Communications Commission has released the first version of its long-awaited national broadband map, which currently shows broadband provider-reported availability data for locations across the country, updated based on challenges submitted by the public.

The map shows address-level performance and provider data for fixed and mobile broadband, as well as data aggregated into larger areas – e.g. B. State, County, Census Site, and Congressional District. The data can be examined by navigating the map’s digital interface or by searching by state or address. The map also shows coverage data by provider.

In order to correct inevitable errors, the FCC is asking for disputing the data submitted by the card provider.

Based on FCC mapping data, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration will allocate grants 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 valid challenges are included in the map before allocation decisions are made, the NTIA asked the public to submit challenges by January 13, 2023.

Once states receive BEAD grants, they will implement sub-grant programs that allocate funds for individual broadband deployment and related projects. Many states already have their own broadband cards, which will likely factor heavily into the final disbursement of BEAD funds to projects. Additionally, they are not required to follow the FCC’s lead and can rely more heavily on speed test data if they see fit.

The map is based on the Fabric, a nationwide dataset of all locations where fixed-line broadband is or could be installed. It was created by Commission contractor CostQuest Associates. The FCC began accepting challenges to the substance’s dates in September.

Challenges for the fabric of the FCC

Speaking Thursday at Broadband Breakfast’s Digital Infrastructure Investment conference, the CEO of CostQuest said James Stegman acknowledged that government broadband agencies may be hampered by commercial deals with data providers if they decide to challenge the agency’s data.

The dilemma comes as state broadband regulators say they could face legal trouble if they challenge the FCC’s mapping data because third-party data providers won’t let their data get into the hands of competitor CostQuest.

“It’s a concern, but I’m not sure how you’re addressing that concern,” Stegeman said. “It’s not necessarily the FCC’s problem — it’s really those third parties that are presenting problems to the states.”

After New York announced in late October that it had reported more than 31,500 missing locations, Fierce Telecom told CostQuest’s vice president Mike Wilson said New York’s challenges cover only a very small percentage — about 0.66 percent — of all locations in the state.

According to Wilson, the challenges in New York “are consistent with what we would expect as a potential margin of error” for the first draft of the fabric.

Wilson, industry experts and the FCC itself have stressed the importance of the iterative nature of the challenge process in producing a high quality national broadband map.

But can states fully engage in the Fabric Challenge process?

However, the effectiveness of the challenge process depends on the ability of states and other actors to actively participate in the challenge process. On a recent Broadband Breakfast Live Online panel, Adam TischlerChief Data Officer for the Montana Department of Administration said many states are barred from doing so by treaty.

According to Carpenter, Montana leases proprietary mapping data — data needed to fully participate in the Fabric Challenge process — from a government contractor. However, licensing agreements prevent the sharing of this data as a challenge for the FCC, as contractual agreements allow CostQuest to lease challenge data for use in its commercial mapping products.

“If you lease that data from a private entity, you can’t just give it to another private entity,” Carpenter said. “And that put us in a position where we either don’t contest the FCC card, breach our contract and get sued, or negotiate a deal where we partially contest the FCC card where it benefits us.”

Carpenter said many states share Montana’s predicament.

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