WASHINGTON, December 11, 2019 – The most vulnerable members of the population need to have the critical services they need from the Lifeline Program, Federal Communication Commissioner Geoffrey Starks said Tuesday at a Practicing Law Institute conference.
Lifeline remains the best method to keep every American connected, Starks continued. It can also help mitigate the disproportionate lack of connectivity and fixed broadband among communities of color. The success of programs such as Lifeline and the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund, he said, are contingent on accurate mapping.
The rural opportunity fund is a $20 billion dollar program that will appropriate money based off Form 477 data, Starks said, which the FCC already knows is inaccurate. He recommended that a portion of the fund be used to improve mapping.
The FCC used relatively liberal standards for RDOF’s model, said David LaFuria from Lukas, LaFuria, Gutierrez and Sachs, LLP, which isn’t indicative of ground coverage. The Digital Opportunity Data Collection can help reach the goal of more accurate mapping, he said, using machine learning and alternative data sets such as crowdsourcing to detect data anomalies.
Moreover, the FCC should consider setting aside more funds for small cell towers, LaFuria said. Small wireless carriers only have access to about 30 percent of fiber small cell sites, making it difficult for them to deploy broadband as well as 5G services.
The FCC needs to determine which areas are unserved and which aren’t, said Michael Romano, senior vice president of Industry Affairs and Business Development at NTCA – The Rural Broadband Association, starting at the 4G LTE level. There need to be ways to ensure that carriers are inputting data in the same way and that self-reporting is reliable.
The current state of FCC funding and connectivity standards, however, makes it difficult to deliver reliable coverage. Policymakers have a tough choice, LaFuria said. They can either provide a wide range of coverage with lower quality speeds or provide higher quality broadband to a narrower group.
As the next year looms in the distance, the FCC is pressed with time to deal with legislative issues before the election cycle.
The discussion of the C-Band spectrum is still in play, said Courtney Reinhard, vice president of Federal Government Relations at Verizon, and it can be handled in a variety of congressional committees. Successful legislation in this area is contingent on bipartisanship, she said, as well as a wide consideration of what each group of telecom companies thinks in the process.
Consideration from different industries is important, said David Grossman, executive director of GPS Innovation Alliance, as it can help clarify language in legislation. Defining a small business, for example, depends on the type of sector and the volume of customers it receives.
Discussions of security and supply chain issues have only just begun, said Kelsey Guyselman, senior director of government affairs at the Information Technology Industry Council. Infrastructure modernization is also a notable issue, she said, but it carries a large price tag that will have to be addressed in the coming year.
More interaction is expected between the FCC’s Office of Legislative Affairs and Congress, Guyselman said, mainly in the form of technical assistance. This allows policymakers to better deliver the information that their constituents need to know about telecom and broadband.
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.
Broadband Mapping Coalition Seeks to Bring Openness Back to Internet Data
The coalition will play a crucial role in broadband data as government implements the largest expenditure of broadband funds.
June 17, 2022 – Non-profit organizations and academic researchers seeking to ensure the openness and transparency of broadband data collection efforts have created an organization, the National Broadband Mapping Coalition, seeking to gather resources on data and mapping.
Shepherded by the Marconi Society, this National Broadband Mapping Coalition has filed comments before the Federal Communications Commission and is ramping up its efforts to be a leading voice for open and transparent broadband data.
The group is led by Dustin Loup, of the public interest group Marconi Society. Loup has been actively involved in the internet governance and policy space for years. Together with Measurement Lab (which is led by Lai Yi Ohlsen), a non-profit group that has been collecting broadband speed data since 2008, these two organizations are poised to promote the vital role of open broadband data as the U.S. Commerce Department implements the largest expenditure of federal broadband funds in history.
Join Broadband Breakfast’s Drew Clark in Friday’s Broadband.Money Ask Me Anything! with Lai Yi Ohlsen and Dustin Loup, on June 17, 2022, at 2:30 p.m. ET.
Why we need open broadband data
In a recent piece on Broadband.Money, Sarah Lai Stirland details the importance of actual speed data in challenging existing Federal Communications Commission broadband data:
- If you click on the census blocks around Newcastle in Broadband Money’s online map, you’ll see that the Federal Communications Commission data shows the blocks as “served” because at least one location has access to internet service of 1000 Mbps symmetrical service. That information is self-reported data from the form 477 that the FCC requires internet service providers to provide.Speed tests from Ookla and the non-profit M-Lab, however, indicate that that census block is, at the very least, “underserved” by the standards established by federal legislation such as the American Rescue Plan Act and the Infrastructure, Investment and Jobs Act. M-Lab says that average internet speeds in the area are 22 Mbps * 5 Mbps and Ookla reports 63 Mbps * 6 Mbps.
Lai Stirland’s profile of Ohlsen and Loup also discusses her skills in computer science and project management, and Loup’s history of involvement in the internet by the Arab Spring.
On a personal level, I’ve been a strong advocate of the importance of public and open broadband data for more than 15 years. See “U.S. broadband infrastructure investments need transparency,” ArsTechnica, February 10, 2009. That op-ed recounts our efforts to obtain FCC Form 477 data in 2006 and 2007, followed by founding BroadbandCensus.com in January 2008 to crowdsource the collection of broadband speed and availability data.
But this was superseded by the National Broadband Map, version 1.0, launched in February 2011. In that first national broadband map, State Broadband Initiatives (like the Partnership for a Connected Illinois) played a primary role in the collection of provider data about broadband availability.
But that national broadband map failed for two reasons:
- Everyone in a census block was considered “covered” if one person in a census block was “covered,” or served with 25 Mbps * 3 Mbps broadband.
- Broadband speeds were self-reported by providers, and there was limited fact-checking, or crowdsourcing, of actual broadband speeds.
Broadband mapping is about to become one of the most central issue in the rollout of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. Without the crucial check of open and public data, broadband mapping runs the risk of falling victim to the same challenges of the last decade.
Who is the National Broadband Mapping Coalition?
The National Broadband Mapping Coalition lays out the problem, and the solution, extremely well on its web page – which is worth quoting at length:
- U.S. policymakers, advocates, and researchers need access to more comprehensive and reliable data on broadband coverage in order to solve the digital divide. The data currently available is insufficient and often misleading. Through a partnership with leaders who value transparent, peer-reviewed, open data, we’re innovating a new approach to mapping broadband network analytics that will help stakeholders gain data-driven insight into this critical issue.
- The Problem
Millions of U.S. residents live without adequate broadband access. While the FCC collects self-reported broadband coverage data from Internet Service Providers (ISPs), that data is often inaccurate and incomplete, and does not offer a detailed, granular picture of connectivity and affordability gaps. Without more complete data, localities face barriers in making their case for securing state and federal funding that is intended to address these digital divides.We believe transparent measurement standards based on new and existing open-source and openly verifiable methodologies are necessary to provide communities with the tools they need to collect data on connectivity speeds, pricing, and availability.State, local, and U.S. Governments restrict data collection and/or sharing for a variety of reasons, resulting in the inability to provide full transparency. The work of the National Broadband Mapping Coalition is intended to strengthen government broadband initiatives and provide the public with much-needed performance information….
We have convened a national coalition of leaders in digital inclusion, technology, research, and policy. Responding to an increased focus on broadband adoption and measurement at the federal level, as well as the continued failure to consistently and verifiably map existing broadband infrastructure, performance, and value, this coalition aims to establish best practices and enable communities, governments, and individuals to access information they need….
In addition to the Marconi Society and M-Lab, other charter partners of the coalition include Google (which has supported M-Lab since its launch), the Internet Society, the Institute for Local and Self-Reliance, and X-Lab. Read more about its vision and mission.
“Ten Years After the Beginning of Broadband Data Collection Efforts, M-Lab Gathers to Celebrate,” Broadband Breakfast, August 8, 2018
“M-Lab Celebrates 10 Years of Broadband Speed Tests, Discusses Work with Schools and Libraries,” Broadband Breakfast, August 16, 2018
Priorities for open broadband data research
Rather than creating one more map, the National Broadband Mapping Coalition is beginning to bring a greater clarity around the importance of open and transparent data for broadband.
In its recent filing at the FCC, the coalition discussed the comparability of quality of service metrics, with a particular focus on the basic forms of measurement: download and upload speeds and latency. But they say,
- Speeds and latency are common metrics many people are familiar with, but they are not the only metrics of Internet performance that matter to the quality of service. Jitter, packet loss, and bufferbloat (latency under load) each have a direct impact on actual experience of Internet users. When any of these metrics are performing poorly, it can be especially detrimental to the performance of real-time applications that support activities, such as a telehealth appointment, job interview, virtual classroom participation, or meeting a new grandchild from thousands of miles away. These impacts on the quality of experience can occur regardless of the bandwidth. Additional quality of service metrics such as network uptime and the mean repair time to restore access are important metrics. The Coalition recommends that the Commission takes steps to identify a set of measurable quality of service indicators, including but not limited to those described in these comments.
No one said that broadband mapping was going to be easy. The more rocks that you turn over, the more dirt that you find. But the easiest way to improve and to course-correct is to be scientific. And that starts with open and transparent data.
Learn more by joining Broadband Breakfast’s Drew Clark in Friday’s Broadband.Money Ask Me Anything! with Lai Yi Ohlsen and Dustin Loup, on June 17, 2022, at 2:30 p.m. ET.
FCC Announces Video Tutorials to Assist Broadband Data Collection Filers
The tutorials are designed to assist filers in the ongoing effort to create updated broadband maps.
WASHINGTON, May 31, 2022 – The Federal Communications Commission announced Tuesday a tutorials program that will help guide providers to submit mapping data when the collection process opens up late next month.
The online help center is designed to provide filers with video tutorials and other resources to help them navigate new broadband data filing requirements and broadband availability data. It comes after the agency announced earlier this year that it is opening up the process of accepting broadband coverage data beginning June 30.
Jean Kiddoo, chair of the FCC’s Broadband Data Task Force, said this program would “ensure that filers can hit the ground running on June 30.” The filing window will remain open until the deadline on September 1, 2022.
This effort to improve the accuracy of broadband data is a part of the FCC’s ongoing task of releasing updated broadband maps, which are expected to be published by the fall.
Many stakeholders in the industry have argued that the existing maps lack the granularity necessary to provide internet service providers, municipal entities, consumers, and the federal government with a complete picture of how served Americans are. The maps are expected to guide billions in federal dollars.
In March, CostQuest Associates began the work to create the broadband fabric that would be used for the existing maps following a failed challenge by LighBox. Individual states have also begun work on their own mapping independent of federal efforts.
- FCC Opens Broadband Data Collection Program
- FCC Commissioner Supports Rural Telco Efforts to Implement ‘Rip and Replace’
- States Must Ease Zoning, Permit Regulations for Broadband Buildouts
- Broadband Prices Decline, AT&T’s Fiber Build in Texas, Conexon Partners for Build in Georgia
- Leo Matysine: The Impact of C-Band on Advancements in Mobile and Fixed Broadband
- Proposed Antitrust Legislation Not the Way to Regulate Big Tech, Panelists Say
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