WASHINGTON, February 20, 2020— State broadband officials play a crucial role in addressing the digital divide, and officials from Georgia and Tennessee presented their best practices on the topic during a Wednesday webinar hosted by the Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration.
Also rounding out the panel was Kathryn de Wit, manager of the Broadband Research Initiative at Pew Charitable Trusts. She presented Pew’s findings from a report analyzing all 50 states’ efforts in expanding broadband access.
Pew’s data collection involved conducting interviews on the field and attending broadband council meetings in the states.
The foundation’s research unveiled five key aspects that separated the truly earnest from the truly successful: engaging stakeholders, having a strong policy framework, supporting planning, state funding, and constant self-evaluation.
De Wit’s research also broached three “near universal truths of broadband practices” that were present in all successful state-led broadband expansion programs: The importance of having the state government’s support, the importance of having a transparent and interested broadband provider, and the role of “neutral advocates” that state officials are perceived as having by both providers and communities.
Deana Perry, executive director of the Georgia Rural Broadband Program, offered more specific advice from her own experience in a three-year broadband program in her state. These changes occurred by action of Georgia Senate Bill 402, passed in 2018.
State Bill 402 took advantage of Georgia’s structure of interagency communication, said Perry.
For example, the advisory committee consisted of representatives from economic development councils, electric co-ops, and the University of Georgia, and committee members included representatives from AT&T, Georgia communications companies, government officials, and Comcast.
Georgia also put together its own statewide broadband map, opting not to use the FCC’s much-criticized Form 477 data.
Crucially, Georgia officials defined an “unserved area” as an area in which less than 80 percent of the population within a census block did not have broadband access.
The Form 477 data simply requires one resident in an entire census block to be able to get access to broadband service for an area to be considered “covered” – and ultimately neglected by entities seeking to bring high-capacity internet.
Georgia collected address data from local governments and sent an address master list to providers asking for confirmation of coverage availability. This allowed providers to correct many of the errors made by the FCC’s methodology.
Lastly, Crystal Ivey, broadband director of the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development, relayed the methods she and her colleagues found effective in expanding broadband in the state.
Ivey credited funding breakthroughs as enabling this expansion. In the past two years that grants have been awarded to providers, $25 million in funds has been awarded.
Notably, more than half of these providers are electric co-ops, which became eligible under Tennessee’s liberal broadband law which passed in 2018. Ivey anticipates a funding increase of $5 million for Tennessee this year.
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.
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- FCC Opens Broadband Data Collection Program
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