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Broadband Mapping & Data

Illinois Credits Success of State Broadband Maps to Ground-Up Approach

State officials discussed working with academic, community and industry partners to craft its broadband maps.



WASHINGTON, August 25, 2022 – Collaboration with federal, academic, community, and industry partners is vital to the accuracy of Illinois’s broadband mapping initiative, according to state officials.

At a Broadband Breakfast Live Online event Wednesday, a panel from the Illinois Broadband Lab explained that its work is inextricably linked to the efforts of institutions and individuals that provide crucial data, funding, and feedback.

Robbie McBeath, program and communications coordinator for the IBL and outreach manager at the broadband policy house Benton Institute, stated that the theme of the discussion was “…the success of Illinois’s comprehensive, collaborative approach.”

Participants at the event pressed the importance of community feedback and engagement, saying the specialized knowledge of local leaders is crucial to correcting inevitable oversights and errors in the mapping process. Officials also credited academic partners – such as the University of Illinois and the Purdue Center for Regional Development – and industry partners that provide data and analysis.

Broadband mapping is “essential” to identifying and aiding underserved and unserved areas and communities, said Shubhika Agarwal, the IBL’s broadband mapping and data coordinator. Agarwal said Illinois partners with Connected Nation to generate maps, after which the state solicits public feedback.

Benton discussed the Accelerate Illinois initiative, a 14-week “training camp” at which experts “…take [county-level leaders] from a ‘broadband 101’ through doing things like data mapping and surveys.”

Matt Schmit, director of Illinois Office of Broadband, said his team encourages local experimentation and innovation in the broadband space and tries to facilitate such efforts whenever possible.

In 2019, Illinois launched Connect Illinois, a $420-million broadband infrastructure initiative, and officials said the state is also taking advantage of the federal Capital Projects Fund and the Infrastructure, Investment and Jobs Act.

“I can’t stress enough that it’s that combination of state initiative and initial investment…plus the federal investment that’s going to help us meet our goals. So, that magnitude of funding is absolutely essential in this environment,” Schmit said.

In order to receive IIJA funds, Schmit said, states are required to extend coverage to all underserved households. Since the passage of the Broadband Deployment Accuracy and Technology Availability Act in 2020, the Federal Communications Commission has launched its own mapping initiative – expected by this fall – on which IIJA funds are dependent.

Nonetheless, the panel emphasized the importance of its own work – which it said is more localized and more accurate – in collecting the necessary data that is needed to submit for federal funds.

Other states taking own initiative on mapping

Illinois isn’t the only state working on mapping initiative. The Washington State Broadband Office has its own maps, which it said were created using a “community-up-discussion” approach. Indiana and Colorado also employ community-feedback approaches to mapping.

Meanwhile, Utah officials have said its own maps are ready for federal funding, while Texas has recently signed an agreement with data company LightBox – a sponsor of Broadband Breakfast – to help build its maps.

Our Broadband Breakfast Live Online events take place on Wednesday at 12 Noon ET. Watch the event on Broadband Breakfast, or REGISTER HERE to join the conversation.

Wednesday, August 24, 2022, 12 Noon ET – Summer of Broadband: Illinois

State broadband offices will play a critical role in the rollout of the Infrastructure, Investment and Jobs Act’s Broadband Equity, Access and Deployment program. In the months of July and August, Broadband Breakfast will take the pulse of broadband efforts at the state level in visits to about half-dozen states across the country. On August 24, Broadband Breakfast Editor and Publisher Drew Clark will return to the Land of Lincoln to talk with those now responsible for running the Illinois Office of Broadband in preparation for IIJA’s BEAD program.


  • Matt Schmit, Director, Illinois Office of Broadband
  • Shubhika Agarwal, Broadband Mapping and Data Coordinator, Illinois Broadband Lab
  • Adrienne Pickett, Curriculum Coordinator for Digital Equity & Inclusion, Illinois Broadband Lab
  • Robbie McBeath, Program and Communications Coordinator for the Illinois Broadband Lab & Outreach Manager with the Benton Institute for Broadband & Society
  • Drew Clark (moderator), Editor and Publisher, Broadband Breakfast

Panelist resources:

Matt Schmit currently serves as Director of the Illinois Office of Broadband, where integration of 21st century infrastructure and service delivery is a primary focus of his work and research. He previously held office as a senator in his home state of Minnesota, and has served on many legislative boards on broadband deployment, transportation policy & investment, and community & economic development. In addition, Mr. Schmit has served on the Cook County Council on Digital Equity (CODE), the Agricultural Utilization Research Institute (AURI) board, the Blandin Broadband Strategies board, the St John’s University Board of Regents, and the Legislative Water Commission; represented Minnesota on the National Conference of State Legislators Nuclear Energy Work Group and Commerce Committee; and was an active member of the National Caucus of Environmental Legislators and State Ag and Rural Leaders.

Shubhika Agarwal has a background in Urban Planning and assists in Illinois’ Digital Equity Grant Programs—Illinois Connected Communities and the Accelerate Illinois Broadband Infrastructure Planning Program. She helps build capacity around broadband planning by sharing state and federal broadband access and adoption mapping and data resources; and supports broadband planning efforts by analyzing actual broadband speeds, usage, and satisfaction levels through broadband surveys. She is also working with the state’s mapping partners to create more accurate broadband maps and data layers to position Illinois to utilize federal funding most effectively for broadband deployment in unserved and underserved locations across the state.

Adrienne Pickett, Ph.D. (she/her) joined the Illinois Broadband Lab in June 2022 as a coordinator of programming and curriculum. She serves as the program manager of the Illinois Broadband Regional Engagement for Adoption & Digital Equity (READY) program and has developed curricular materials on digital equity and community engagement planning. In this role, she works closely with state digital equity grant recipients to analyze demographic data, identify community assets, connect with community anchor institutions, and promote broadband adoption. In addition, she conducts the onboarding of new Illinois Extension and American Connection Corps broadband fellows. She was awarded a Ph.D. in Education Policy, Organization and Leadership from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. In addition to her broadband equity work, she serves as an online lecturer in Education Leadership for educators working full-time.

Robbie McBeath recently joined the Illinois Broadband Lab where he will be leading the Accelerate Illinois Broadband Infrastructure Planning Program and continuing to publish the Illinois Broadband Connections bi-weekly newsletter. He also currently serves as Outreach Manager for the Benton Institute for Broadband & Society, overseeing the marketing and outreach for Benton’s publications and managing the organization’s social media presence. Before joining the Benton Institue in 2014, he interned at the FCC and served as an AmeriCorps VISTA with the Open Media Foundation in Denver, CO. He graduated in 2013 from the University of Illinois with a degree in Media Studies.

Drew Clark is the Editor and Publisher of 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.

WATCH HERE, or on YouTubeTwitter and Facebook.

As with all Broadband Breakfast Live Online events, the FREE webcasts will take place at 12 Noon ET on Wednesday.

SUBSCRIBE to the Broadband Breakfast YouTube channel. That way, you will be notified when events go live. Watch on YouTubeTwitter and Facebook

See a complete list of upcoming and past Broadband Breakfast Live Online events.

Broadband Mapping & Data

South Carolina’s Innovative Broadband Maps Verifies ISPs’ Internet Speeds

South Carolina performs mapping audits to hold ISPs accountable for coverage claims.



Photo of Jim Strizinger

WASHINGTON, May 21, 2023 – South Carolina’s innovative state broadband map can accurately identify areas of over-reporting by internet service providers, the director of the state’s broadband office said in a Friday Ask Me Anything! session in the broadband community.

South Carolina processes the same data as does the Federal Communications Commission as it creates its broadband map. However, it also performs audits on the ISPs to ensure they are submitting accurate data. Hence, the state can determine errors in reporting data based on where the ISP’s networks had been deployed previously and where state investments have gone, said Jim Stritzinger, director of the state’s broadband office.

Providers are required to file amended returns with the FCC in the event that South Carolina’s state broadband office flags errors in their reporting information. Errors include misreporting of technology types.

If the reporting errors are not corrected, the state will report the defaulting ISP to the FCC, said Stritzinger, a software engineer with a passion for mapping broadband in the Palmetto state.

A big flaw of the FCC’s maps is that ISPs were able to report advertised speeds, which Stritzinger said were useless.

To enhance the accuracy and reliability of the maps, Stritzinger partnered with broadband data collection company Ookla, and integrated speed test data directly into the mapping system. More than 12 million Ookla speed tests have now been incorporated into the map, with some census blocks containing over 15,000 tests.

In 2021, South Carolina made the decision to no longer accept Digital Subscriber Lines as reliable service anywhere in the state. Doing so opened large regions of the state to investments, said Stritzinger, and will reduce the number of underserved locations.

The state’s next iteration of its map is set to come out sometime before June 30, and will be the state’s first address-level broadband map.

Stritzinger estimated that investments from the Broadband Equity Access and Deployment program will be deployed in 2025. In the meantime, the state will continue working to deploy the American Rescue Plan Act dollars, which allocated $25 billion in several broadband projects, $8 billion of which will go to states and local governments directly.

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Broadband Mapping & Data

In Ask Me Anything!, Jim Stegeman of CostQuest Says Broadband Fabric Will Improve

Fabric data will continue to improve with feedback implementation and process changes, said CostQuest CEO.



Photo of Jim Stegeman, CEO of CostQuest

WASHINGTON, May 12, 2023 – There are unrealistic expectations for the broadband mapping process despite its continual improvement, said Jim Stegeman, president and CEO of CostQuest, the mapping company that was hired to deliver fabric data to the Federal Communications Commission, during an Ask Me Anything! event in the broadband community on Friday. 

“We will never get to allocation if we are after perfection,” said Stegeman, claiming that the company has been working hard to improve its processes over time.  

The broadband fabric data is a dataset that maps all locations at which “fixed broadband internet access service has been or could be installed.” The FCC populates its National Broadband Map with the fabric data. The National Telecommunications and Information Administration has committed to allocating federal broadband funding by June 30 based on a version of the map. 

Since its initial roll-out and subsequent challenge process – in which providers and state broadband offices have been able to challenge coverage claims by submitting contrary evidence – many have complained about the map’s many inaccuracies. 

CostQuest maintains that the fabric identifies 99.3 percent of all broadband serviceable locations correctly and is “very good” where it stands. 

Fabric will be continual improved 

Stegeman outlined in his remarks areas in which the fabric and its processes will continue to improve in the coming iterations.  

Each version of the fabric implements feedback, he said. Version two incorporated over a million new BSLs, 178,000 of which came from the FCC’s challenge process and 860,000 from CostQuest’s internal efforts to improve the fabric.  

The FCC is currently in the process of releasing the next version of the National Broadband Map based on version two of the fabric data. This version of the map is expected to be the map which the NTIA allocates BEAD funding. 

Subsequent iterations of the map will support state deployment and challenge processes, said Stegeman. 

Version two also improved tribal land BSL identification by updating the logic that identifies whether a parcel of land holds a BSL and whether it contains multiple or single units. 

Furthermore, through contractual agreement with the FCC, CostQuest has retained a file – facetiously titled the detritus file – that stores information on where water towers, sheds, chicken coops, and other agricultural buildings are located.  

Precision agriculture, the process of using broadband to optimize agricultural production, requires broadband connection to these locations, often located miles away from homes and other BSLs. The FCC anticipates that this location data may be of future use, said Stegeman.

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Broadband Mapping & Data

Overreporting on State Broadband Maps Could Hinder Spread of Connectivity to Communities

Overreporting in maps may prove to be detrimental.



NEW ORLEANS, May 10, 2023 – Overreporting served areas on broadband coverage maps may serve to disguise connectivity needs of communities, said Jason Hunt, CEO of CableSouth, speaking at a Broadband Breakfast Live Online event. 

Louisiana’s state broadband office, ConnectLA, is working to build a state challenge process based on federal guidance for state broadband maps.  

Providers tend to inflate coverage claims, which represents the most fundamental issue of broadband coverage maps, Hunt claimed. Unfortunately, the areas in which speed claims are inflated are left out of funding opportunities, he said.  

For Louisiana, this issue is why a state challenge process is so essential, said Thomas Tyler, deputy director of ConnectLA. Federal guidance suggests that the challenge process errs on the side of accepting challenges, which can serve to eliminate overreporting, he added. 

Hunt, whose company does business as Swyft Fiber, expressed uncertainty that the process will solve the problem. According to NTIA guidance, only non-profits, internet service providers and communities can submit challenges. Individuals looking to challenge speed claims must rely on community institutions to submit the challenge.  

Photo of Jason Hunt of CableSouth, Tiffany Howard of LCTCS, Greg Ford of Southern University at New Orleans, Thomas Tyler of ConnectLA, and Drew Clark of Broadband Breakfast (left to right)

ConnectLA is working on the allocation and deployment process of its Giving Unserved Municipalities Broadband Opportunities program, which includes $176 million from the Treasury Department’s Capital Projects Fund. The office is also deploying broadband through the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund. 

The state is supplementing the National Broadband Map, which is populated with national, location-level coverage data, with its own data from the GUMBO and RDOF programs. The maps have “changed the game” for providers, said Hunt.  

The GUMBO program also invests capital in workforce development. The Louisiana Community and Technical College System is using money to educate college campuses on available careers in the telecommunications industry and to develop training programs for its students. The program has seen a lot of success, said Tiffany Howard, director of transportation and logistics at LCTCS. 

Applications for the GUMBO program require that potential awardees submit workforce development plans to support future needs, she added. 

Louisiana was the first state to receive planning funds from the Digital Equity and Broadband Equity, Access and Deployment programs and will be the first to release its plans. We are excited to receive public feedback from our plans, said Tyler.

The Broadband Breakfast Live Online event was orchestrated with ConnectLA and hosted at the Greater New Orleans Foundation on Tuesday. It was pre-recorded and webcast on Wednesday at 12 Noon ET.

Our Broadband Breakfast Live Online events take place on Wednesday at 12 Noon ET. Watch the event here on Broadband Breakfast.

Wednesday, May 10, 2023, 12 Noon ET – GUMBO and Louisiana’s Broadband Progress

Since its creation in 2020, Louisiana’s state broadband office has accrued an impressive list of accomplishments: Louisiana was the first state to be awarded a planning grant from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, the first state to receive federal approval for broadband funding from the American Rescue Plan and the nation’s number one state for per capita adoption of the Affordable Connectivity Program. With an ambitious goal of eliminating Louisiana’s digital divide by 2029, ConnectLA’s Granting Unserved Municipalities Broadband Opportunities program — otherwise known as GUMBO — recently awarded more than $170 million to projects that ultimately aim to serve over 80,000 locations across the state. In this Broadband Breakfast Live Online session, hear directly from the leaders of Louisiana’s broadband efforts about how they are approaching this pivotal moment.


  • Jason Hunt, CEO, CableSouth
  • Tiffany Howard, Director of Transportation and Logistics, Louisiana Community and Technical College System
  • Greg Ford, Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs, Southern University at New Orleans
  • Thomas Tyler, Deputy Director, ConnectLA
  • Drew Clark, Editor and Publisher, Broadband Breakfast

Jason Hunt is CEO of CableSouth.

Dr. Tiffany J. Howard, CWD, serves on the Louisiana Community and Technical College System’s Academic and Workforce team as the Director of Transportation Industry Initiatives. She is responsible for providing technical assistance, leadership, and support concerning high-quality training programs that meet the state’s and prospective employers’ needs. Her major projects include designing and implementing the first dual enrollment Transportation pathway curriculum, leading the $3.5M Professional Resilience Occupations (PRO) project in collaboration with the Office of Community Development, leading the statewide $10M Broadband training project, leading the nationwide Noncredit and Credit Alignment project, serving as lead on the Haas training project, and establishing partnerships with various industries seeking workforce solutions across the state.

Dr. Gregory Ford is a native of Louisiana and the Vice Chancellor of Academic Affairs and Southern University at New Orleans. Dr. Ford is the Principal Investigator on a $3M National Telecommunication and Information Administration-Connecting Minority Communities Pilot Grant to provide digital literacy and broadband access to the New Orleans Area. The goal of the grant is to address digital equity and inclusion in underserved communities.

Thomas Tyler, deputy director of ConnectLA, has experience in technology strategy, cybersecurity concerns, economic development and public policy disciplines. Throughout the past 13 years, he has operated in a variety of roles supporting public and private entities. Most recently, he served as a consultant and adviser for one of the nation’s leading cybersecurity and technology advisory practices. Thomas’ experience includes providing information security and technology strategy, consulting and training services to a variety of clients.

Drew Clark (moderator) is CEO of Breakfast Media LLC. He has led the Broadband Breakfast community since 2008. An early proponent of better broadband, better lives, he initially founded the Broadband Census crowdsourcing campaign for broadband data. As Editor and Publisher, Clark presides over the leading media company advocating for higher-capacity internet everywhere through topical, timely and intelligent coverage. Clark also served as head of the Partnership for a Connected Illinois, a state broadband initiative.

WATCH HERE, or on YouTubeTwitter and Facebook.

As with all Broadband Breakfast Live Online events, the FREE webcasts will take place at 12 Noon ET on Wednesday.

SUBSCRIBE to the Broadband Breakfast YouTube channel. That way, you will be notified when events go live. Watch on YouTubeTwitter and Facebook.

See a complete list of upcoming and past Broadband Breakfast Live Online events.

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