With a Sept. 1 deadline looming, some rural broadband providers say they are “terrified” and “overwhelmed” by the FCC’s new broadband reporting requirements. Those are the terms participants in a webcast on the FCC’s new Broadband Data Collection (BDC) process used. Fortunately, NRTC’s CrowdFiber demonstrated mapping tools that can take some of the anxiety out of the new process.
Broadband providers have long been required to file FCC Form 477 with subscriber information to determine rural areas where broadband service does or does not exist. Under the new BDC process, providers will continue to provide Form 477 along with an additional report with more detailed polygon mapping and address information. The FCC is requiring both reports every six months on Sept. 1 and March 1. The government will use the more detailed maps to administer future broadband funding projects.
CrowdFiber’s Bailey White asked webinar participants, “Are you worried about submitting on time?” About 30 percent responded that they were “terrified” and about the same number found the new requirements a bit annoying.White next asked which aspect of the new report was proving to be most difficult. Polygons? Address lists? Working with the Broadband Serviceable Location Fabric? Continued Form 477 requirements? One in three participants said they were overwhelmed by the whole thing.
“We really want to help as many members as we can in dealing with this and submitting accurate information. I’ve been blocking off time personally on my calendar. Feel free to reach out,” White said to those looking for assistance as the deadline nears.
For example, the areas represented in CrowdFiber Zones are similar to the BDC polygons. “We are releasing an ability for you to set BDC settings and download GeoJSON in the format you need for the BDC from your Zones in CrowdFiber,” White said. The tools allow the user to generate data and maps quickly and accurately fit for BDC filings.
Similarly, just as BDC locations correspond to the polygons, CrowdFiber addresses correspond to Zones. CrowdFiber has developed the settings to use the tool for BDC locations reports.
Missing the BDC/Form 477 deadlines could lead to considerable consequences. “It’s really important that you file something,” said Steve Pastorkovich, NRTC’s senior director, Broadband Funding, who was a webinar panelist. “But the poll we heard earlier about people being overwhelmed and terrified … you’re not alone. We’re hearing from people all over the industry. Everybody is facing the same problem.”
The FCC, Pastorkovich said, is aware of problems with its BSL Fabric and that those problems will still be present on Sept. 1. He advised providers to file the best data they have and correct it later. “A good-faith effort is what you really need to do here,” he said.
Members who facing the deadline and would like to review the webcast recording will find it on the NRTC website. And for those who do not have a chance to review the recording until after Sept. 1, remember that the next reporting deadline is only six months away.
Update, Sept. 2: The FCC announced by Public Notice that it will begin accepting challenges to the Broadband Serviceable Location Fabric beginning Monday, Sept. 12. The Commission describes the Fabric as “a common dataset of all locations in the United States where fixed broadband Internet access service is or can be installed.” Working with an incomplete Fabric was one of the difficulties broadband providers faced as they approached the now passed the first deadline for BDC reports. The FCC will hold a live webcast to explain the Fabric challenge process at 2 p.m. Eastern Time, Sept. 7, on its website and YouTube.