The FCC is encouraging state and local governments and broadband providers to file bulk challenges to the commission’s broadband serviceable location database by March 15. Bulk challenges received by that date are most likely to be addressed in time to be reflected in the next update to the broadband serviceable location database, also known as the “fabric.”
The next update to the fabric is scheduled to be available June 30 of this year.
The FCC made its recommendation in a public notice released yesterday. The notice confirms what we heard from NTIA recently—that the broadband serviceable location fabric will not be updated until June 30. That’s the same date when NTIA plans to announce how much money each state will get from the $42.5 billion Broadband Equity Access and Deployment (BEAD) program.
In other words, no changes will be made to the locations database in time for the state allocations.
The BEAD program will cover some of the costs of deploying high-speed broadband to unserved and underserved areas. States will administer the program at the direction of NTIA, and the funding allocated to each state will depend on the number of unserved locations in the state.
NTIA has denied requests to delay the June 30 date for the state allocations.
Some stakeholders wanted more time to file location challenges. Although there was a location challenge process when the first version of the location database was released in June 2022, there was considerable uncertainty about how soon challenges had to be filed in order for them to be addressed in time to be reflected in the current version of the fabric (version 2), which was released early this month.
Today’s public notice suggests that only challenges filed prior to November 10 were reflected in the current version of the map.
“Any bulk challenges to version one of the Fabric that were filed between November 11, 2022 and January 2, 2023 are being ‘carried over’ and reviewed and adjudicated against version two,” the FCC wrote in the public notice.
The FCC said it added over a million locations to the location database between the first version of the broadband map released in June 2022 and the second version released early this month. Nevertheless, some stakeholders say more changes are needed to make the map accurate.
Earlier this week, for example, we learned that the state of Alaska had undertaken its own broadband mapping process which showed that thousands of locations were missing from the current version of the map.
A Balancing Act
NTIA faces a tough balancing act in setting timelines for the BEAD program. While some entities would like to see more time to address broadband location challenges, others are eager to see funding made available as soon as possible so that broadband can be deployed as soon as possible.
Those in the second group argue that the current version of the map is good enough for state allocations because any deficiencies in the map are likely to impact all states equally. And NTIA has sided with them.
It’s worth noting that some states – including New York, Georgia and others — already have created their own and, they argue, more accurate – maps that could be used for allocating funding to specific locations within the state.
Meanwhile, state and local governments, broadband providers and other entities that are eligible to make bulk challenges are encouraged to submit location challenges by March 15 to “have the best opportunity to be considered in time for preparation of the next version of the Fabric (version three),” the FCC said in the public notice.
The third version of the fabric is the one scheduled to be available June 30.
“Bulk Fabric challenges submitted after March 15, 2023 are unlikely to be considered for version three of the Fabric and will instead be reviewed and adjudicated as part of a future iteration of the Fabric,” the commission continued.
What About Availability Challenges?
It’s important to note that location challenges are only one type of challenge that can be made to the broadband map data. The other type of challenge is an availability challenge, which involves whether a provider offers broadband to a specific location.
Providers are in the process of inputting availability data into the current version of the fabric and have until March 1 to complete that process. It’s worth noting that if the FCC follows the schedule that it has followed for the initial data collections, there will be no challenge process for that data until after the third version of the map is released June 30.
To read this article on Telecompetitor, please visit: https://www.telecompetitor.com/mending-the-fabric-fcc-says-to-file-broadband-location-challenges-by-march-15-what-about-bead/