3 Tips for the FCC Fabric Challenge Process

Are you planning on submitting FCC Fabric Challenges? Below are 3 helpful tips we pulled from the FCC’s “BDC Technical Assistance Workshop: Filing Bulk Fabric Challenge Data” video demonstration, to support teams through the Challenge Process.

The FCC’s “BDC Technical Assistance Workshop: Filing Bulk Fabric Challenge Data” video walks through:

  • FCC Fabric definitions
  • Tips on how to work with FCC Fabric data
  • How to submit challenges to the Fabric locations
  • Examples of FCC Fabric Challenges that do not meet Fabric Challenge requirements
  • Common questions the FCC is hearing about the FCC Fabric Challenge process

We recommend watching this full video from the FCC if you plan on submitting challenges to the FCC Fabric.

Here are 3 tips from the FCC’s video to help you with the Fabric Challenge Process:

1) Understand the geospatial component of the FCC Fabric data

Pull the FCC Fabric data into a visualization software such as QGIS (a free visualization software) to match your service locations to Broadband Serviceable Locations (BSLs), compared to matching locations in the text fields of the .CSV FCC Fabric file.

The FCC Fabric is a geospatial data set that comes in an excel .CSV text file format, but it is very important to understand that there is location information, such as coordinates of each serviceable structure and more within it.  A full understanding of the geospatial component of the FCC Fabric is critical to a successful challenge process, and without the use of visualization software to fully comprehend the data, it is easy to make mistakes.

Working with the FCC Fabric takes time and is best used with mapping tools. The FCC explains in their video that “only looking at the text fields in the Fabric may be quick and easy, but runs a real risk of generating information in challenges that may not be upheld. Thus, possibly running the risk of allocating time and resources toward work that won’t move the needle.”

2) Understand that addresses are not exactly BSLs

A common misconception is that addresses are Broadband Serviceable Locations (BSLs). Addresses are not exactly BSLs, an address is assigned to a BSL. However, a BSL can contain multiple addresses – for example, an apartment building will have multiple addresses, but it is considered one BSL. A Broadband Serviceable Location (BSL) is defined by the FCC as “a residential or business location (or structure) where fixed broadband internet access service is or can be installed.”

Comparing addresses to BSLs is like trying to compare apples and bananas. Both are fruits (location information) but are still different types of fruit (not an exact match). Think of the FCC Fabric as a Broadband Serviceable Location (structure) level data set compared to an address-level data set. It’s imperative the location data (such as an address) you choose to submit to the challenge process, coordinates with a Broadband Serviceable Location (structure). This is why a data visualization tool is helpful to ensure an address falls on a serviceable structure.

3) Be sure to file a Fabric Challenge under the correct challenge category

For example, to add a missing BSL, or add an address to a BSL, are different Fabric Challenge categories, and challenge data submitted under these categories must meet the category’s requirements to be considered a valid challenge. To understand ALL the types of Fabric Challenge Categories, please visit this page on the FCC’s website.

It’s important to note the underlying source data for addresses in the FCC Fabric may not be an exact match with what an ISP or other organizations have in their systems, which may result in conflicting address information and mislead people to believe a location is missing. The addresses ISPs and other organizations have in their system, could be the correct address, however, the BSL that address may correlate with, may already be identified (ex. 123 Main St vs. 123 N. Main Street, etc. – both may refer to the same location).

If this is the case, the address should be submitted under the “add an address to a BSL” challenge category, rather than the “add a missing BSL” challenge category. This will allow the address to be filed as a secondary address to an already existing BSL. If you know an address correlates to a BSL, (when you pull the address into your visualization map and the point lands on a structure), and that BSL has not been identified (no Fabric point on the structure in your visualization map), and you know it meets the requirements to be a Broadband Serviceable Location, then that would be an example of a case for filing an “add a missing BSL” Fabric Challenge.

Here’s an example from the FCC’s video (minute 9:18):

The FCC walks through an example of Fabric Challenge data they received from an ISP that said the Fabric was missing locations in a small neighborhood. When the FCC reviewed the challenged area in a QGIS map, from their perspective there weren’t a lot of missing locations. The FCC suspects the underlying source data in the Fabric data might be conflicting with the address information the ISP has in their system. In other words, the address an ISP has in their system does not match the address in the Fabric, therefore leading the ISP to think that address needs to be added as a new BSL, when it may need to be filed as a secondary address for an existing BSL. The FCC explained that if they try to add new BSLs in this area with the challenge data the ISP submitted, they’re either going to hit existing BSLs (structures) that are already included in the Fabric, or the address may not be clearly associated with any location structure. See the next example of how an address may not clearly be associated with a location structure.

Fabric Challenge Example - Source FCC
A snippet from the FCC’s BDC Technical Assistance Workshop: Filing Bulk Fabric
Challenge Data.” This image shows a small section of FCC Fabric data from a satellite point of view. Source: FCC

Here’s another example from the FCC’s video (minute 11:18):

The FCC received a set of Fabric Challenges from another ISP saying, “these addresses are missing BSLs in the Fabric.” When the FCC reviewed this data, it was found that these addresses were already identified as BSLs and that these addresses should be filed under the “add a secondary address to a BSL” Fabric challenge category instead of “add a missing BSL” Fabric challenge category.

When the FCC reviewed the challenge data from the ISP side by side with the Fabric data, as pictured below, the challenge data points are clustered together, not close to any buildings, and generally sitting directly on the roads. This challenge data submitted by this ISP does not meet the FCC challenge process requirements since the data points do not line up with a BSL (location structure). The FCC then explained they suspect this challenger has addresses they are not finding in the Fabric. This may mean, these addresses could be added as secondary addresses for the associated existing BSLs, and if that is the case, the FCC encourages the ISP challenger to file that kind of challenge instead.

FCC Fabric Challenge Example - Source FCC
A snippet from the FCC’s BDC Technical Assistance Workshop: Filing Bulk Fabric Challenge Data.” This image shows an example of submitted Challenge Data (in purple) compared to Broadband Serviceable Location Data (in green).
Source: FCC

Submitting FCC Fabric Challenges is critical now more than ever

We understand this is not an easy process, however, it’s vital to get external feedback outside of our own internal improvement processes, to confirm the FCC Fabric locations are accurately reflecting the reality in your communities. Therefore, we encourage parties to support the accuracy of the data behind the National Broadband Map by participating in this critical process.

We recommend watching this full “BDC Technical Assistance Workshop: Filing Bulk Fabric Challenge Data” video from the FCC or reading through the FCC’s Bulk Fabric Challenge Resources to prepare challenge submissions to the FCC Fabric.

Resources

Disclaimer

This communication does not reflect the opinion or the policy of the Federal Communications Commission. The FCC is not responsible for the information or views in this communication and is not responsible for the accuracy, completeness, or timeliness of such information or views.

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