WASHINGTON, February 23, 2022 – The Federal Communications Commission is opening the process for internet service providers to submit their broadband data in late June, paving the way for an improved map that has been anticipated ahead of the disbursement of federal infrastructure funds.
The agency said Tuesday it is setting September 1, 2022 as the deadline for broadband carriers to submit their broadband availability data, which will go toward the widely anticipated national broadband map. But the FCC noted in Tuesday’s public notice that it can shorten the filing window if the Broadband Data Collection (BDC) systems used to validate and publish broadband availability become operational before the September 1 deadline.
The announcement comes as lawmakers have clamored for an improved map to start the process of determining where the $42.5 billion allocated to go to the states from the Infrastructure, Investment and Jobs Act should go. Commerce SecretaryGina Raimondo
said the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, a Commerce agency, has been in frequent contact with the FCC and said the improved map could come as early as this summer.
The new deadline provides additional insight into how soon that map could roll out.
Mapping collection delays
Tuesday’s public notice explains that a challenge to the FCC’s bidding process caused the mapping delay. CostQuest – the company chosen to create the common dataset of all locations in the United States where fixed broadband internet access service can be installed known as the “broadband serviceable location fabric” – received a challenge in the Government Accountability Office preventing it from compiling the dataset.
“The protests of the fabric, while part of the competitive bid process required in the Broadband DATA Act, have impeded . . . our ability to move forward with obtaining the fabric data in advance of launching the BDC [broadband data collection],” the FCC stated.
Broadband data’s longstanding issues
The lack of an accurate nationwide broadband availability map has concerned members of the Senate and policymakers who want a detailed map ahead of the disbursement of money from the IIJA.
“It all starts with getting the maps right,” said a letter from lawmakers to Alan Davidson, the head of the NTIA. “The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has consistently overstated broadband coverage around the United States.”
Historically, the FCC has relied on its “Form 477 method,” which took data from internet service providers to determine coverage gaps. That accuracy issue had led to problems that most recently emerged from the reverse auction process that divvied funds from the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund, which the FCC has been cleaning up ever since.
The FCC has since broadened its mapping methods, including adding crowdsourced data.