By: Hailey Farrow, Marketing Manager & Zac Byrd, Marketing Associate on behalf of CostQuest Associates.
On May 12, 2023 – Jim Stegeman, President and CEO of CostQuest Associates, joined a community Q&A session that asked him various questions related to CostQuest’s role in the Fabric for the Broadband Data Collection (BDC), and National Broadband Map, mapping updates, improvement efforts to the Fabric, the challenge process, and much more.
With the event running for about an hour, to save you some time, below is a recap of the most pertinent insights and updates shared during the event.
Or feel free to watch the full webinar (see below) for more details.
Jim Stegeman during the webinar. Source: broadband.io
CostQuest’s Role with the Fabric & National Broadband Map
In the Q&A session, Jim talked about how CostQuest does not provide the ISP coverage information that is shown in the National Broadband Map, nor does CostQuest play a part in the creation of the National Broadband Map or related maps. “Our efforts are to provide the Broadband Serviceable Location Fabric to the FCC, so they have the underlying location points for the BDC process and the National Broadband Map. ISPs receive the Fabric location points and provide coverage information on what points fall within their service area and the speed provided to that point. This data will then go back to the FCC to be cleaned and normalized before being presented on the National Broadband Map.”
Jim said in the webinar, “We provide our points to the FCC. The ISPs provide their coverage. The FCC then associates that with the data, and they are in charge of the map. We have nothing to do with the broadband data map. We just simply provide the points that come up on the map.”
(*Think of this new national broadband mapping process like the process to make a mimosa. CostQuest provides the Fabric locations (champagne) to the FCC for the Broadband Data Collection and National Broadband Map processes. The FCC is the bartender combining the Fabric locations (champagne), the ISP Service Availability, and challenge data (orange juice) to create the National Broadband Map (the mimosa). See the diagram below.)
Updates on the National Broadband Map
Jim talked about how the FCC is currently in the process of scrubbing, cleaning, and communicating with ISPs to ensure they have the most accurate information for the National Broadband Map. The expectation is that Version Two of the map will come in the very near future, likely sometime at the end of May 2023.
NTIA plans to base the BEAD allocations on Version Two of the FCC Fabric, which was released to ISPs on January 3rd, 2023, and round two of the BDC (Broadband Data Collection filings submitted on March 1st, 2023). These two components will collectively make up Version Two of the National Broadband Map. Using these key resources, NTIA will establish a basis for determining which Broadband Serviceable Locations fall under the criteria of an ‘unserved location’ and aid in other analyses required to develop the BEAD allocation amounts.
Updates on the FCC Fabric Data
As mentioned previously, Version Two (V2) of the Fabric data was released in January 2023 to support round two of the ISPs Broadband Data Collection filings due March 1st, 2023. From Version One to Version Two of the Fabric, over 850,000 locations were added to Fabric V2 through CostQuest’s own internal improvement process, and roughly 178,000 new locations were added from the FCC’s Challenge Process.
As of May 2023, Version 3 of the Fabric is currently in production and will be released in early July 2023 to support the next round of ISP Broadband Data Collection filings due September 1st, 2023.
Top Fabric Questions
During the Q&A webinar, Jim was asked a number of questions from the audience. Below are examples of some of the most interesting questions Jim answered.
“What is your method and fields used to determine Broadband Serviceable Locations?”
Jim briefly walked through the process stating CostQuest, “starts with about 160 million parcels across the country. In those parcels, we identify all the building footprints that we can identify in that parcel. And then once we identify that we believe there is a BSL in the parcel, we will go through a scoring effort to try and identify which of the buildings in the parcel we believe is the BSL (Broadband Serviceable Location). And then once we identify the building, we place the latitude, longitude, typically on the center of the building polygon to say this is approximately the point at which broadband point and delivery would be made.”
“What are the downsides of developing a Broadband Location Fabric as intellectual property, and is there a way to overcome them?
Jim replied, “Yes, it does create some obstacles. You know, as we develop the Fabric, we have to work with third-party vendors who have license agreements with us. We have to adhere to those license agreements as we create our license agreement. So, while it would be great to have this as a public resource, open public resource, there are restrictions. If you want a high-quality dataset, if you want to sacrifice quality and you want to sacrifice time, a public dataset could be developed.
But if we were talking about the public dataset for BEAD today, there would be a lot more issues to discuss because of the sacrifice you have to make when you go the public route. You can overcome those with time, but as we talked about earlier, we don’t have the luxury of time right now.”
Jim is emphasizing, a public dataset is absolutely possible to create, and over time can be of high quality. However, it takes time to do so and may be more costly. The upside of the intellectual property route is creating a high-quality dataset in a relatively quick timeframe. The downside of going the intellectual property route is that CostQuest must adhere to the upstream requirements from third-party data vendors CostQuest uses to develop the Fabric. Therefore, restricting how public the data can be and the activities it is used for. The FCC and CostQuest have done their absolute best to make the data as public as possible for the Broadband Data Collection and state broadband entity’s broadband mapping efforts.
“do you have any plans to open the Fabric source code for community participation?”
Jim replied, “As you think about the open-source approach or the open-data approach, as I said, it can be done, but it takes time. It’s time that we don’t necessarily have the luxury or the funds to do so. It’s a much more expensive process. Because we’re able to leverage datasets that vendors have developed that they provide at a lower cost than the original development of the data source, we are able to save money there. But the downside is it’s got restrictions on use.”
“On the upside, the FCC has issued multiple licenses that allow parties to access the information, use the information, and then as far as improving the data, they’ve got a challenge process in which parties can come in and challenge the information so that it makes it through to the Fabric,” stated Jim. The challenge process was implemented to open the floor for community participation to the Fabric data.
Updates on the FCC’s Challenge Process
A key issue with the challenges made to Version One of the Fabric was parties filing an address claiming a Broadband Serviceable Location (BSL) was missing in the Fabric. When, in fact, the locations(s) had previously been accounted for.
Jim explains, “Those challenges should have been filed as an address challenge, not a missing BSL challenge. But that said, we understood the issue. In Version Two, the additional addresses representing units are now part of the Fabric.” The addition of the secondary addresses to Version Two of the Fabric is to help parties moving forward match their addresses to the addresses tied to Broadband Serviceable Locations.
Another issue that came up is the FCC doing quality checks on addresses. The FCC verifies valid addresses based on USPS datasets and other resources. If the addresses do not match, then the system will automatically reject it. Though to receive more addresses, the challenge process has been loosened for Version Two. However, it’s important to note, there will always be a quality check for any address submitted.
About CostQuest’s Cost Modeling Approach
During the event, Jim talked about one of CostQuest’s core services, Cost Modeling. He described that since 1999, CostQuest Associates has worked with a wide range of broadband companies on their network cost modeling, along with the property tax side of their businesses. CostQuest provided the FCC with the enhanced ACAM model which guided the Connect America Fund (CAF), CAF II, and the RDOF funding programs.
There is a multitude of factors that go into CostQuest’s cost modeling approach, and during the discussion, Jim provided the viewers with a high-level glimpse of the methodology CostQuest uses. Jim described, “CostQuest’s fiber to the prem (FTTP) model is engineering-based, starting at each customer point and continuing up to where we believe the first point of connection is. This first point of connection is called the drop terminal. CostQuest then walks to the next connection point, which is called the splitter. The next step is to identify all the points inside the splitter neighborhood using minimum spanning road tree algorithms to minimize total cost and deployment footage.”
“By doing this, once all 114 million points are done being engineered across the country, we’ve walked a path from every point up to its serving nodes. We work closely with our client’s engineers and look closely at their cost and material-price information. Since we can gain insights on this knowledge and combine it across our other clients, we are confident in our fiber to the prem model,” says Jim.
Jim provided a lot of useful information about various hot topics and comments circulating throughout the broadband industry, and we highly recommend watching the full Q&A session for more details!
More about Jim Stegeman
Jim started CostQuest in 1999 and has served as president and CEO of the company since then. He has been a major force behind the development of the latest generation of economic cost models and locational data used by cable, telco, tower, and wireless companies and by state and government agencies in support of broadband deployment analysis and network valuation. He is leading the design and implementation of the Broadband Serviceable Location Fabric adopted and used by the FCC for the National Broadband Mapping effort, which will drive the funding allocation of the NTIA’s $42.45 billion BEAD program.
Jim leads a firm of renowned geospatial, database, costing experts, and broadband and valuation specialists. You can learn more about Jim and the rest of the CostQuest team through the link below.
This communication does not reflect the opinion or the policy of the FCC or NTIA. The FCC or NTIA 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.