Adding congressional oversight to the growing mix of interest in the broadband mapping debate, the House Energy and Commerce committee announced that the Communications Subcommittee will hold a hearing on “Improving the Nation’s Broadband Maps” on Wednesday, September 11, at 10:30 a.m. in Room 2322 of the Rayburn House Office Building.
The FCC recently issued an order and sought additional comment on the next phase of a digital mapping project. For important background about the goals of broadband mapping, see Drew Clark’s piece on “Broadband Maps Are a Mess, So Now Let’s Focus on Actually Improving Them” or other topical pieces on Broadband Breakfast.
“Accurately mapping the availability of broadband internet service across America is essential to promote the deployment of high-speed service to Americans living in unserved and underserved areas,” said subcommittee Chairman Mike Doyle, D-Penn., and committee Chairman Frank Pallone, D-N.J.
“This FCC doesn’t have a clear picture of where broadband is or isn’t available,” said Doyle and Pallone. “Congress must take action to ensure the reliability of our nation’s broadband maps so investments in affordable and high-speed broadband infrastructure can close the broadband gap once and for all.”
As the school year begins, rural students are on the other side of the digital divide
Allen Pratt, executive director of the National Rural Education Association, argues that policymakers in Washington should remember that at least 6.5 million students will be stuck on the other side of the digital divide.
Writing in the Hill, Pratt argues that 70 percent of teachers assign homework requiring a broadband connection, which creates a gap between those students who have good broadband and those who don’t. He also highlights the role that NREA has played, since 1907, in focusing on improving the quality of education for rural communities.
“There are few issues today that are more critical to that mission than expanding broadband connectivity in rural America,” he said.
Over at the American Action Forum, William Rinehart explains that rural broadband issues are not exclusively a U.S. problem. Former Norwegian Minister for Transport and Communication Ketil Solvik-Olsen faced criticism for his government’s inability to get rural coverage in northern Norway.
Even though Denmark outranks the U.S. on broadband, it too struggles with getting broadband in the countryside. And while the German government has considerable sums on a broadband project, experts have warned that there is “‘no way’ Germany could get all its citizens connected via fiber or terrestrial mobile.”
WISPA touts growing momentum for spectrum sharing
The Wireless Internet Service Providers Association on Wednesday released a 233-signature industry letter to members of Congress, urging them to intervene in the FCC’s consideration of 500 megahertz of radio frequencies in the C-Band.
WISPA is opposing the “auction only” approach of allocating the C-Band exclusively for commercial use.
“Though we support the rapid development of next generation, 5G mobile broadband services, we harbor concerns about how that would be done,” write the signatories, which include a wide range of WISPS. The “auction only” approach “would greatly limit meaningful access to that valuable spectrum for our companies, consequently exacerbating the digital divide.”
Upcoming broadband events for the day ahead
States are Making Their Own Broadband Maps to Challenge the FCC’s Data
With FCC maps promised soon, some states are preparing to possibly challenge them by making their own.
WASHINGTON, August 8, 2022 – Some states are preparing their own broadband availability maps in preparation to challenge any deficiencies in the Federal Communications Commission’s own maps, according to state officials Broadband Breakfast spoke to, which could mean the difference between more or less funding.
The FCC’s new map, which is expected by this fall and will help federal programs deliver billions in funding to underserved and unserved areas, will include a challenge process where broadband providers, and communities will be able to challenge broadband availability claims by submitting evidence to the FCC’s Broadband Data Collection system.
Many states are preparing for this challenge process now by establishing their own state broadband maps, according to people this publication spoke to. William Price of location data and service company LightBox said that “states that have invested in developing their own fabric and their own ISP data collection for those locations will be in a position to pose a credible challenge [to the FCC’s maps].”
If states have not developed their own location level mapping, they will have no basis to evaluate if federal funding allocations are appropriate and no way to advocate for additional funds, said Price, whose LightBox has agreements with some states to develop their own maps. (LightBox is a sponsor of Broadband Breakfast.)
B.J. Tanksley of Missouri’s Office of Broadband Development said in an interview that the state is “hopeful that its maps will be useful in challenging the FCC’s maps… we believe our maps will allow us to challenge, when necessary, to improve the accuracy for Missouri.”
Tanksley added that there are sure to be many states looking to strengthen their maps prior to the FCC process, which will lead to a demand in this area.
Indeed, Utah is following the trend. Rebecca Dilg of the Utah Broadband Center told Broadband Breakfast that state maps are necessary to compare to FCC maps. Dilg expects that Utah’s state map will prove useful to challenge location-level coverage claims in the cases of multi-dwelling buildings where federal maps would claim a location is served without considering multi-tenant living situations.
Preparing for the challenge process is an “important investment of time,” Dilg said.
Florida, which has developed a broadband internet speed test to populate its map, said in a statement to Broadband Breakfast that any location level map that Florida may create should supplement the yet-to-be released FCC maps.
The road to better maps
Previous broadband availability maps provided by the FCC faced longstanding criticism from industry stakeholders, members of Congress, and the FCC itself because of its overreliance on the Form 477 method, which relied largely on data from internet service providers.
Those maps relied on data on speed tests, surveys, and data at the census block level, which meant an entire block was considered covered if just one address within that block received adequate connectivity.
In order to improve the mapping situation and ensure that the $42.5 billion in new funds from the Infrastructure, Investment and Jobs Act funds are allocated to areas in need, Congress passed the Broadband Deployment Accuracy and Technological Availability Act in 2020.
A few states have undertaken the location-level methodology that precisely maps the availability of broadband services to every address in the state, said Price. Some of these states have contracted with LightBox.
Other states are choosing to collect broadband availability data through speed tests and surveys to approximate where broadband services are and are not. These types of maps are not as accurate as address location-level maps, said Price.
Price said it looks like over 30 states may be forgoing creating their own maps and are choosing to accept the results of the FCC maps.
Possible problems facing state-level maps
Obtaining ISP support and cooperation has proven to be difficult for state officials, according to some. Clay Purvis of Vermont’s Community Broadband Board indicated to Broadband Breakfast that carriers do not always provide complete reports of service areas. Dilg of Utah agreed, adding that it is a challenge getting ISPs to participate in updating maps, which Utah does on a semi-annual basis.
Furthermore, Vermont is concerned that the FCC will not accept data from its drive-test data during the challenge process.
Utah’s Broadband Maps Are Ready for Federal Funding, Broadband Director Says
‘The efforts that have been done in the past have been a great foundation.’
SALT LAKE CITY, July 13, 2022 – Utah’s work on its own broadband availability maps means it is prepared for billions in federal funds coming from the Infrastructure, Investment and Jobs Act, said the state’s broadband director at a Broadband Breakfast Live Online event Wednesday.
“The efforts that have been done in the past have been a great foundation,” said Rebecca Dilg, director of the Utah Broadband Center, the state’s broadband office.
Utah’s decade-old broadband availability maps are updated every six months and Dilg said they provide a foundation for upcoming money from the Broadband Equity, Access and Deployment program, the $42.5-billion initiative from the National Telecommunications and Information Administration.
Utah counties work with the state broadband office to continually update a layer on the map that shows individual addresses, added Kelleigh Cole, director of strategic initiatives at the Utah Education Network, a state research network. This layer allows the broadband office to see whether broadband access extends to specific addresses.
Mapping data, said Dilg, prepares the state broadband office to address “doughnut holes” where urban centers receive high-speed coverage, but surrounding areas do not. The BEAD program requires that unserved residents are served first, but Utah’s broadband office is optimistic that the funds will reach into underserved areas, including cities where antiquated technology, like digital subscriber lines, are primarily used.
The Federal Communications Commission assured that its nationwide broadband coverage maps will be available by the fall. The Broadband Data Collection portal on the FCC website is currently open for internet providers and governments to submit coverage data.
Utah is home to the second largest city in the country fully connected to fiber, West Valley City, which is also the largest U.S. city connected via an open access network.
FCC Opens Broadband Data Collection Program
The data will go toward improved maps, which the FCC chair said will be available by the fall.
WASHINGTON, June 30, 2022 – The Federal Communications Commission on Thursday officially opened its new system to collect broadband service information from over 2500 broadband providers.
The Broadband Data Collection “marks the beginning of [the FCC’s] window to collect location-by-location data from providers that we will use to build the map,” said FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel in a press release.
Broadband providers will be required to provide availability claims and supporting data. Supporting data will include sections such as “propagation modeling information” and “link budget information.” The deadline to submit is September 1.
Rosenworcel said the agency has established consistent parameters that require broadband providers to submit data using geocoded locations that will “allow [the FCC] to create a highly precise picture of fixed broadband deployment, unlike previous data collections, which focused on census blocks, giving us inaccurate, incomplete maps.”
With this information, the FCC will build a common dataset of locations in the United States where fixed broadband service can be installed, called the “fabric.” Rosenworcel said that this fabric will serve as a “foundation upon which all fixed broadband availability data will be reported and overlaid in our new broadband availability maps.”
Following the completion of the maps, government entities and internet service providers will be given a challenge window where availability claims may be challenged based on submitted data.
Rosenworcel previously said that the improved broadband maps will be available by the fall.
States expect to be busy fact-checking these claims as they are released, said panelists at Broadband Breakfast Live Online Event Wednesday. States will be involved in individual challenging processes and will be expected to provide information on availability through individual speed testing.
States want to get these maps right because they serve as a broadband investment decision making tool, said Bill Price, vice president of government solutions for LightBox, a data platform that is helping states build broadband maps. That means many states are committed to obtaining accurate local coverage data to utilize federal and state funding.
Wednesday, June 29, 2022, 12 Noon ET –Broadband Mapping and Data
Now that the National Telecommunications and Information Administration’s Notice of Funding Opportunity has been released, attention turns to a core activity that must take place before broadband infrastructure funds are distributed: The Federal Communications Commission’s updated broadband maps. Under the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, as implemented by the NTIA’s Broadband Equity, Access and Deployment program, these address-level maps from the FCC will determine the allocation of funds among states and serve as a key source of truth. Our panelists will also consider the role of state-level maps, the NTIA challenge process and other topics. Join Broadband Breakfast as we return to one of the subjects that we know best: Broadband data and mapping.
- Bill Price, Vice President, Government Solutions, LightBox
- Dustin Loup, Program Manager, Marconi Society’s National Broadband Mapping Coalition
- Ryan Guthrie, Vice President of Solutions Engineering at ATS
- Drew Clark (moderator), Editor and Publisher, Broadband Breakfast
- Broadband Breakfast on April 20, 2022 — Broadband Mapping and Data: In-Home Connections
- Broadband Breakfast on February 2, 2022 — Groundhog Day Special on Broadband Mapping
- Broadband Breakfast on December 22, 2021 — When Will the Broadband Maps Get Fixed?
- Ask Me Anything! with Lai Yi Ohlsen and Dustin Loup on June 17, 2022
Bill Price, Vice President of Government Solutions, is responsible for LightBox broadband data and mapping solutions for government. Bill has more than 40 years in telecommunications and technology services development and operations. His track record includes delivering the Georgia statewide location level broadband map, the first fiber metropolitan area network in the U.S., and launching BellSouth’s internet service. LightBox combines proven, leading GIS and big data technology to transform how decisions are made in broadband infrastructure planning and investment.
Dustin Loup is an expert on internet governance and policy and program manager for the Marconi Society’s National Broadband Mapping Coalition. Much of his work centers on improving digital inclusion and establishing transparent, open-source, and openly verifiable mapping methodologies and standards.
Ryan Guthrie is VP of Solutions Engineering at Advanced Technologies & Services. He started with ATS in 2006 and has been involved in all aspects of the business from sales and marketing through solution design and implementation. Ryan also manages regulatory solutions for ATS and has been deeply involved with the federally funded broadband projects by assisting ISPs with their performance measures testing compliance.
Drew Clark is the Editor and Publisher of BroadbandBreakfast.com and a nationally-respected telecommunications attorney. Drew brings experts and practitioners together to advance the benefits provided by broadband. Under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, he served as head of a State Broadband Initiative, the Partnership for a Connected Illinois. He is also the President of the Rural Telecommunications Congress.
As with all Broadband Breakfast Live Online events, the FREE webcasts will take place at 12 Noon ET on Wednesday.
- Appeals Court Affirms FCC’s Spectrum Authority, FTC Privacy Rulemaking, (Root) Beer and Broadband
- David Flower: 5G and Hyper-Personalization: Too Much of a Good Thing?
- FCC Denies Funding for Two of the Biggest Winners of Rural Digital Opportunity Fund Money
- Grid Broadband Bill, Ting Gets Financing, Finley Engineering Has New CEO
- Broadband Breakfast on August 17, 2022 – Summer of Broadband: Tennessee
- FCC Encouraged to Limit Data Collection on Affordable Connectivity Program, Others Want More
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