WASHINGTON, January 24, 2020 – The broadband data collection activities of the Federal Communication Commission are inaccurate by an “order of magnitude,” agency critics said at a Next Century City panel discussion Thursday on “Creating Accurate and Reliable Broadband Deployment Data.”
The panel kicked off with X-Lab Director Sascha Meinrath speaking in grand terms about why broadband matters. He related broadband access in the 21st century to “maximizing wellness” and lowering the death rate in areas as diverse as domestic violence and the opioid epidemic.
Joined by others on the panel, Meinrath lit a broadside into the FCC’s Form 477 data collection efforts as a collection of “hyperbolic statements.” He said FCC efforts were off by an “order of magnitude.”
The FCC has “colored outside the lines” by including regions that theoretically could support broadband but in really are isolated.
These regions are then seen in the eyes of the government as “covered” and therefore ineligible to receive much-needed support. Meinrath also warned that there are thousands of similar overstatements “lurking in the data.”
Meinrath compared the FCC’s faulty collection of data to the crowdsourced collection of information begun by Measurement Lab, which was founded in 2008 when Meinrath was at New America, but is now a free-standing project no longer formally affiliated with the think tank.
The Measurement Lab data is freely available to the public and researchers. Microsoft has made use of the data, as well as its own broadband data, to demonstrate weaknesses with the FCC’s mapping collection process.
Only four states satisfy the minimum criteria for broadband connectivity per the FCC’s own definition, said Meinrath.
La Yi Ohlsen, project director of Measurement Lab, also spoke about the need to collect data at the city level. Also known as M-Lab, the project provides communities with surveys to send to their members so that data at the ground level can be collected and then compared to national data sets.
A good example of this approach was illustrated by fellow panelist and San Antonio Smart City Director Candelaria Mendoza.
Her office runs economic impact surveys in the 10 districts of her city to better understand the relationship between lack of access and poverty. She also listed three main data points she wishes to collect from households: Access to broadband, access to devices, and digital literacy skills.
The panel capped off with the solution-based question “how do we improve data collection moving forward?” Mendoza offered her desire to move from being reactive about data to proactive.
Meinrath closed the panel similarly to how he opened, painting the picture of disconnection as an “existential threat” to the poor.
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.
Industry Concerned About Challenges of Getting Mapping Data to FCC
The FCC has a September deadline for mapping data it will begin collecting at the end of June.
WASHINGTON, May 12, 2022 – Key players in the broadband industry are under pressure to deliver coverage data to the Federal Communications Commission, as some expressed concern Monday about workforce availability and the costs of getting that data to the agency.
Specifically, the Federal Communications Bar Association event heard that certification requirements for professional engineers are causing concerns, especially among small internet providers. And workforce shortages are pushing hiring costs up, which small companies often cannot afford.
“Everybody is going to have different challenges depending on the size of the company,” Lynn Follansbee, vice president of strategic initiatives and partnerships at US Telecom, said at the FCBA event Monday.
A big company has “challenges just by sheer number of communities served” and smaller companies often don’t have sufficient manpower for efficiently reporting coverage, Follansbee added.
Chris Wieczorek, senior director of spectrum policy at T-Mobile, said the key is to strike a balance between accountability with proper certifications and small staff limitations.
The Broadband Deployment Accuracy and Technological Availability Act requires the FCC to collect new data from fixed broadband service providers to construct a new map, which is expected by this fall and will help federal programs deliver billions in funding to underserved and unserved areas. In April, the FCC released the preliminary broadband serviceable location fabric to help prepare providers for their data submissions due in September.
Christine Sanquist, vice president of regulatory affairs at Charter, stated that although the FCC has provided the preliminary fabric, “the biggest challenge for Charter is really that the BDC requirements are so different from the Form 477 requirements,” which were the existing forms submitted by providers and which yielded data inaccuracies.
CostQuest to Supply FCC Broadband Map After Watchdog Denies Contract Appeal
The Government Accountability Office rejected LightBox’s bid to protest CostQuest’s award to build the map.
WASHINGTON, March 3, 2022 – The Government Accountability Office last Thursday denied an appeal by real estate mapping company LightBox that challenged the Federal Communications Commission’s selection of CostQuest Associates to construct the agency’s enhanced broadband map.
In a press release Wednesday, CostQuest, a mapping data provider, announced the decision by the watchdog, stating that though the appeal delayed its “contract performance” by three months, the company is on track and expected to deliver the first version of the Broadband Serviceable Location Fabric to the FCC “later this year.”
The GAO’s decision came just two days after the FCC officially set a date for June to begin collecting internet service provider data for the better map. Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo previously said that her communications with the agency yielded a possible summertime release of the map.
The FCC awarded the contract to CostQuest in November as part of its obligation under the Broadband Deployment Accuracy and Technology Availability Act, which became law in 2020.
The creation of a national fabric – or aggregation of data into a single model for the country – is a critical part of bridging the digital divide and integral for the disbursal of billions in federal funds from the Infrastructure, Investment and Jobs Act, $42.5 billion of which is managed by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration.
Broadband mapping has been widely discussed in recent years and the FCC has acknowledged that its efforts on this front have been insufficient. The FCC’s current maps only reflect broadband service on the census block level, meaning that if a single address in a census block has access to broadband, the entire census block is considered to have access to broadband. The agency has also begun collecting crowdsourced data.
The services outlined by CostQuest show a higher level of granularity, being able to distinguish between specific addresses, their broadband speeds and quality, and regional marketing trends. In addition to being able to aggregate this address specific data, CostQuest will be able to overlay and compare it with cost, funding, and technology assessments.
States taking initiative on mapping
Though some states were already in the process of their own respective mapping efforts, many will still be largely dependent on federal maps to apply for funding and ultimately deploy broadband infrastructure to underserved and unserved Americans.
“States will have direct access to the location data in the BSLF to support the collective effort of building a better national map,” Jim Stegeman, president and CEO of CostQuest, said in a press release Wednesday, adding it will be available to service providers as well.
- 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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