FCC Releases Broadband Funding Map, ‘Most’ Map Data Issues Resolved, More Midband Spectrum

The new map allows users to track projects subsidized by the federal government.

FCC Releases Broadband Funding Map, ‘Most’ Map Data Issues Resolved, More Midband Spectrum
Photo of NTIA head Alan Davidson, left, and Drew Clark at Broadband Breakfast event in April 2022

May 16, 2023 – The Federal Communications Commission on Monday released its broadband funding map, which identifies areas where federal money has been used to build infrastructure.

The map includes data received from the Department of Agriculture, the NTIA, the Department of Treasury and its own data, the commission said, adding any other info submitted by other agencies will be included in future versions.

The map allows users to filter by federal funding programs and internet service providers, including the timeline of the project, how many locations are included in the project and the download and upload speeds to be provided.

The release fulfills one requirement of the Infrastructure, Investment and Jobs Act, which requires an online mapping tool for projects funded by the federal government.

Experts have said having a consistent way to track the billions in broadband infrastructure money – especially from the NTIA’s BEAD program – is critical.

Rosenworcel says ‘most, if not all’ broadband data concerns addressed in latest fabric

The head of the FCC told lawmakers in a letter earlier this month that the commission’s latest broadband map dataset has addressed “most, if not all” outstanding concerns with accuracy following challenges by local entities.

The changes to the dataset, which resulted from information it received by March 1, included adding one million net new broadband serviceable locations and removing those labelled as having service.

“For example, in the State of Oregon, 18,077 new BSLs were added to Version 2 of the Fabric,” Rosenworcel said in the May 5 letter. “A number of counties in the state saw percentage gains in locations that were double the national average. Similarly, the number of BSLs in the Navajo Nation and Taos Pueblo in the State of New Mexico increased 173% and 31%, respectively, from Version 1 of the Fabric to Version 2.”

Rosenworcel’s updates came in response to a letter sent from lawmakers in March, which encouraged the FCC to publish updates to the dataset – called the fabric – every month instead of every six months.

Rosenworcel said that this would not yield useful information because the providers, who submit BSL data to the commission, are only required by the Broadband DATA Act to report that data on a biannual basis. If the FCC were to pursue the monthly reporting, Rosenworcel said, it would “create anomalies in the data because the map would contain locations that have no broadband availability data (positive or negative) on the map.

“In other words, this would result in updates with zero data about whether or not broadband service is available,” Rosenworcel continued.

To reassure lawmakers, Rosenworcel said the FCC is continuing to work to “improve and refine the data” for future versions of the map. Rosenworcel reiterated that the commission has plowed “significant resources” into improving the latest iteration of the dataset.

The map will be used by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration when it comes to distribute to the states by June 30 the $42.5 billion from the Broadband Equity, Access and Deployment program.

NTIA, State Department proposing mid-band spectrum for 5G

The NTIA and the Department of State are proposing that the 3.3 to 3.4 GHz spectrum band be opened for 5G mobile services, according to a joint statement Monday.

The band is currently used in the country by government aeronautical mobile radar systems, according to the FCC.

The proposal defines the interference protections to those incumbent services, according to the joint statement, and will be sent to the May 2023 Inter-American Telecommunications Commission (CITEL) in Mexico City, Mexico this month.

If the regional proposal is adopted, CITEL will take it to the World Radiocommunications Conference in Dubai in November. If it’s adopted there, international radio regulations would be updated to identify the band as a possible use for 5G.

The mid-band portion of spectrum is said to be crucial for next-generation wireless services, such as 5G, and industry has been calling for the FCC to release as much as possible to maintain American leadership in the space.

The FCC currently does not have the authority to auction spectrum because Congress has failed to move a bill that would reinstate that jurisdiction after it lapsed in March.

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