Rosenworcel Unable to Provide Broadband Mapping Timetable
In a document released this week, FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel indicated that the updated FCC broadband maps it began preparing earlier this year will not be available anytime soon. She could not estimate precisely when they will be ready. The maps are a necessity before the FCC and other agencies will be able to move forward with some of the new and existing broadband funding programs. Current indications are that maps will not be available until well into 2022 or perhaps later.
“As I have said before, the best time to undertake this effort was five years ago, but the second-best time is right now — and we are proceeding with speed in order to avoid any further delay,” Rosenworcel said in a Dec. 8 letter (PDF) to Representative Victoria Spartz (R-IN), who had requested a map completion timetable.
The letter goes into detail describing the current delay, which centers around the Commission’s difficulty signing a third-party contractor to build a “Broadband Serviceable Location Fabric.” The fabric is a data base needed to pinpoint specific sites. The Broadband DATA Act (PDF), signed in March 2020, specifically directs the FCC to “create a common dataset of all locations in the United States where fixed broadband internet access service can be installed.”
After a summer of procedural delays, the FCC on Nov. 9 chose CostQuest Associates to build the fabric. However, a rival bidder in the project’s Request for Proposal filed a protest with the Government Accountability Office (GAO).
“FCC efforts to proceed with the fabric have been stayed while the GAO has 100 days to issue a decision on the protest,” Rosenworcel said. “Under the law, we are required to wait for GAO to proceed any further with the fabric. If Congress wishes to identify a legislative way to expedite this process, the agency will provide whatever further information is necessary to assist.”
In the meantime, the chairwoman said the Commission is concentrating on “implementing the challenge, crowdsource and verification processes” that the Broadband DATA Act also requires. The amount of work ahead and the level of uncertainty around the fabric suggests a significant wait before the project’s completion. Online publication telecompetitor in a Dec. 23 article, cites experts estimating that “although the updated map could be ready in late 2022, it’s more likely to be ready in 2023.”