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Coalition Expects to Have Workable Mapping Solution Next Month

Randy Sukow Jun 20, 2019

USTelecom this afternoon said that it expects to present the FCC with a proof of concept of a new broadband availability mapping technology by next month. The Broadband Mapping Initiative, a consortium of 15 broadband providers and industry associations formed in March and announced that it was perfecting a way to collect accurate broadband availability in rural areas.  Under the group’s current timetable, it hopes to have a completed, commercially available national broadband by Fall 2020. The coalition claims that its timetable should not delay the FCC’s current plans to roll out new broadband funding initiatives.

“The creation of a national broadband serviceable location fabric is not only not ‘theoretical,’ it is realistic and necessary to ensure that we have an accurate map of where rural consumers are located, which will enable more granular reporting of where broadband service is available or is not,” USTelecom said in a May 28 ex parte letter to the Commission.

The system, now called “the Fabric,” has been in trial operation in the states of Missouri and Virginia. It will cost about $10-$12 million to complete, they say. The plan is for it to use location data from multiple sources and overlay it with geocoding software to identify where broadband is available at a granularity below the currently used census block level.

The information sources in the system will include “individual geolocated structures, polygons [shapefiles], and wireless propagation maps,” USTelecom said in an informational sheet. USTelecom, speaking for the group, said that it has already shown the FCC preliminary data and images to suggest that its Fabric approach is highly accurate.

The photo above is one of the images the coalition provided to the FCC to suggest the systems ability to identify specific structures in a given rural area.

USTelecom criticized other potential mapping approaches emphasizing shapefiles without location databases. A system “without a rigorously developed and consistently geocoded underlying template is neither granular nor accurate," it said.

The coalition’s update on the Fabric comes as the FCC plans to vote on an order to upgrade its current Form 477 process for collecting broadband availability. The Commission has not yet released a draft of the order but has indicated that it will call for use of technologies, such as shapefiles, but will also establish a challenge process for areas that do not actually have availability when the FCC says they do.   

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