Colorado to Begin BEAD Challenge Process Next Week

The NTIA approved the state's plan on Wednesday, the state said.

Colorado to Begin BEAD Challenge Process Next Week
Photo of Brandy Reitter, executive director of the Colorado Broadband Office, from the Colorado Sun

WASHINGTON, January 5, 2024 – The National Telecommunications and Information Administration on Wednesday approved Colorado’s plan for accepting challenges to government broadband data, said the state. The state also said it will begin accepting challenges on Wednesday, January 10.

The Infrastructure Act’s $42.5 billion Broadband Equity, Access and Deployment

program makes money available to states and territories to expand broadband infrastructure, of which Colorado was allocated $826 million. States finished submitting their initial proposals for implementing the program on December 27, and the NTIA is now in the process of reviewing those proposals.

They come in two volumes. Volume 1 details how states plan to accept and process challenges to government data on broadband availability. The Federal Communications Commission’s map, updated through its own challenge process, was used to determine relative need and make state-level allocations, but states are required to field challenges on a local level to get a more accurate picture of which homes and businesses lack adequate internet access.

Other leading states have received approval of Volume 1

Virginia, Kansas, Delaware, and Montana have also had Volume 1 approved, while Louisiana remains the only state to receive approval on both volumes. Volume 2 outlines plans for scoring applications and awarding grants under the program.

With its Volume 1 approved, Colorado is free to kick off its challenge process. The state will start accepting challenges next week on Wednesday, January 10. Like almost every other state, Colorado will be adopting the model challenge process created by the NTIA.

Challenges can allege that current data on things like the internet speed, technology type, latency, and data caps available at a location is inaccurate. They can only be submitted by nonprofits, municipal governments, and internet service providers, meaning eligible challengers must source evidence of these inaccuracies from their communities or, in the case of providers, internal plans and network management systems.

Optional modification to the model challenge process

Colorado is making optional modifications outlined in the model process. It will designate any area served only by DSL – digital subscriber line – technology as “underserved,” and thus eligible for BEAD-funded projects, regardless of what speed the provider advertises. The option was included in the model to phase out copper telephone wires in favor of more future-proof broadband technologies like fiber-optic cable. At least 30 other states are planning to do so.

The state’s draft Volume 1, posted for public comment in October, included plans to preemptively mark some census block groups and low-income MDUs, or multiple dwelling units like apartment buildings, as underserved if speed test data showed enough of their residents receiving speeds below BEAD’s 100 * 20 Megabits per second (Mbps) threshold.

But the state said in a statement that those plans were removed, in part to get NTIA approval. The state is planning to publish the approved version of its Volume 1 “in the coming days.”

The state could still be able to make similar designations based on the challenges it receives, though. Colorado’s draft plan included the optional area and MDU challenges laid out by the NTIA. Under these rules, if six locations in a census block group or 10 percent of the units in an apartment building challenge the same provider’s technology or coverage, the provider must provide evidence that they serve the entire block group or building as reported in government data. If the provider does not, the entire area or building can be marked as un- or underserved.

Those provisions also proved popular, with at least 40 states signaling intent to use them in their draft plans.

Popular Tags