Broadband Map Challenge Deadline Passes Without Extension

Randy Sukow

|

Whatever flaws may still exist with the FCC’s new National Broadband Map, the data the FCC has gathered so far will determine the distribution of much of the $42.5 billion in Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment (BEAD) support. The National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) plans to use the map to divide grant money among the states. The FCC gave states, consumers, service providers and others until Jan. 13 to submit corrections to an admittedly incomplete map, which the Commission didn’t release until Nov. 18, 2022.

The process is going forward in spite of calls from many stakeholders to extend the Jan. 13 deadline by up to 90 days. NTIA says that its goal is to allocate BEAD funding to the states by June 30 and that the early deadline was necessary to stay on schedule.

“Unfortunately, a delay in the timeline would mean a delay in providing funding to communities who desperately need it, and it will not address many of the process concerns we have heard,” NTIA said in a blog post late last week. “Every day we delay is another day that communities are not connected. We feel the urgency to getting this funding out the door so it can be put to work for everyone in America.”

When the Commission released the map in November, it said upfront that it likely had many inaccuracies. It referred to the initial release as a “pre-production draft” and established a challenge process. Challengers may question the map’s data regarding broadband availability in a given area and can challenge the geographic location of structures appearing on the map. Stakeholders also have been filing challenges to the Broadband Serviceable Location Fabric, a database of addresses that could order broadband services.

According to a tally by newsletter Fierce Telecom, “at least 382,799 location challenges” had been filed as of Jan. 12, along with 30,600 availability challenges. However, the publication said that it gathered challenge totals from about half the states and that the actual total could be significantly larger.

The FCC will continue to refine the map indefinitely and collect new broadband availability every six months data through the Broadband Data Collection (BDC) process. The next BDC deadline for broadband providers is March 1. The challenge process is also ongoing. However, it appears that NTIA will base its BEAD program distribution on the map now on hand.

Subscribe for more insights from NRTC