FCC’s Broadband Map – What NRTC Members Should Know

Teresa Ferguson and Steve Pastorkovich |

On Nov. 18 the FCC released the new National Broadband Map, displaying location-level information on fixed and mobile broadband availability. Internet service providers submitted map data through the FCC’s Broadband Data Collection (BDC).   

Unlike previous FCC broadband availability maps, consumers, governments, service providers, and other entities can now dispute the providers’ data and contribute to an ongoing effort to ensure its accuracy. The map’s release kicks-off the availability challenge processes (described below). Learn how to use the map.   

What Providers Should Do Now 

  • Obtain the Location Fabric if you have not already done so; instructions are available here
  • Broadband Map for your service area(s) to:  
    •  consider whether to submit location or availability challenges (explained below);  
    •  prepare for any potential challenges. 

 Why is the map important? 

The new maps will serve as a basis for the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) to allocate $42.5 billion in Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment (BEAD) grants to states and territories next summer.  

Challenges 

The BDC allows providers, governments, Tribes, and consumers to continually improve and refine the accuracy of the broadband availability data through two challenge processes: one for the locations represented in the Fabric and another for the ISP’s availability data. NTIA says that challenges should be submitted by Jan. 13, 2023, to be included in the final version that it will use to allocate BEAD funding in summer 2023. The FCC has posted an overview of the BDC challenge process

The FCC will hold a Bulk Fixed Availability Challenge Process Technical Assistance Workshop on Nov. 30 at 4 p.m. Eastern Time. The workshop announcement is here. Interested parties register here to attend. 

Fabric or Location Challenges 

Locations that appear on the map are part of the Broadband Serviceable Location Fabric (Fabric).  Submit a challenge if: 

  • A location that meets the FCC’s definition of a Broadband Serviceable Location is missing in the Fabric. 
  •  A location’s showing broadband serviceability is incorrectly identified.
  •  Information about a location is incorrect in the Fabric (e.g., the address or unit count for the location is incorrect). 
  •  The location’s placement on the map (i.e., geographic coordinates) is incorrect. 

Fixed Availability Challenges 

The map shows internet availability, not network performance, affordability, or adoption. Therefore, only the availability of the service can be challenged. Fixed availability challenges are for fixed services such as fiber, cable, DSL, satellite, or fixed wireless. Challenges may include: 

  • A provider does not offer the reported service speed.
  • The provider denies requests for service or demands connection charges that exceed its standard installation charge. 
  • The provider fails to schedule or perform installation within 10 business days of a request. 

While availability challenges are different from network performance challenges, challengers also may submit crowdsourced data that addresses performance. Requirements are similar to the availability challenge process., but the crowdsourced data submission is a less formal procedure that may result in further FCC investigation.  

How Will the FCC Determine Challenges?  

Providers can review and either concede or rebut a challenge. Where possible, the FCC expects providers to communicate and work with the challengers directly to resolve issues.  

If a provider concedes the challenge or fails to rebut it, the challenged services will no longer show as available for that location or area on the FCC’s broadband maps.  

 Additional Resources 

Broadband Data Collection Resources | Federal Communications Commission (fcc.gov) (Education Tab) 

Bulk Challenge Data Specifications: https://us-fcc.app.box.com/v/bdc-bulk-fixed-challenge-spec  

Video 1 (20 minutes): Bulk Fixed Availability Challenges: An Overview for Filers – YouTube 

Video 2 (19 minutes): How to File Bulk Fixed Availability Challenges in the BDC System – YouTube 

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