Data State Broadband Programs Need for Effective State Broadband Plans

For states to be successful in crafting their state broadband plans and utilizing their allocation of BEAD grant funding to serve the most unserved and underserved areas as possible, here are some suggestions on what data they should obtain:

  • Broadband service availability & estimated units in demand: Location-level coordinates of Broadband Serviceable Locations.

  • Competitive landscape: How many, and what type of technology providers are within a certain proximity of a serviceable location.

  • Build Complexity: Relative difficulty in deploying Fiber to a serviceable location. Understanding factors such as soil, terrain, and labor conditions are key.

  • Service adoption: Understanding what to expect in terms of broadband adoption for a serviceable location, and the factors that contribute to lower adoption rates.

  • Cost to deploy: Fiber and Fixed Wireless costs to deploy and serve a location.

  • Funding eligibility: Understanding what funding programs are already deployed or going to be made eligible for a serviceable location.
Figure 0.1

Why do states need this broadband data to develop effective state broadband plans and funding bids?

Comprehensive, granular, and reliable broadband information embedded in a state-wide broadband map is crucial to understanding how to invest, plan, and design a broadband network.

It is important to note that “the quality of your broadband planning is determined by the quality of the underlying data.” – Jim Stegeman, President & CEO of CostQuest Associates.

The data inserted into state broadband maps should accurately reflect the areas where the state intends to expand broadband access and help them identify unserved areas in the state. Data and information about service availability, competition, the complexity of network build-out, deployment cost, funding eligibility, and adoption of broadband services are highly recommended pieces of information to be included in broadband maps to effectively inform the state’s broadband plans. 

By gathering this information, states can develop a picture of the areas they wish to serve as well as mitigate project risks by addressing factors that may affect the deployment and adoption of network services. Assuring the state program’s network and financial models are accurate and critical decisions are effectively guided throughout BEAD and other federal funding programs’ life cycles.

Here’s an example of data in a broadband map that could mislead decision-making:

In Figure 0.2, we see a GIS application that displays locations on a broadband map based on an address. This address dataset (red dots) mark locations along road segments, but the actual serviceable structures (green dots – structures where a broadband connection can be installed) are approximately 100 meters away from where the address-based dataset shows where that location is. 

Coordinate-level location precision vs. address data location precision.
Figure 0.2

Using address-based geocoding instead of identifying serviceable structures is one way to potentially mislead decision-making in your broadband planning, including project timelines and estimated costs. Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment (BEAD) grant applications and funding bids are more likely to be successful when states obtain reliable information about the overall conditions and broadband needs of the state.

When states are searching for data to inform their State Broadband Program, the data obtained should help answer the following questions:

  • Where and how many exact locations are served and underserved with broadband service?

  • What providers are able to provision service, and where are their existing coverage areas?

  • Are there any protected areas that require a special permit and topographical factors that could affect broadband infrastructure deployment?

  • Are there any barriers to the adoption of the deployed broadband services?

  • What will the lifetime cost of this network deployment project be?

  • Does this location qualify for other funding programs such as CAF II, RDOF, or the Capital Projects Fund?

Final thoughts

The quality of the specific datasets that a State Broadband Program uses to create its state broadband plans plays an important role in the success of its BEAD and other grant program applications. Comprehensive, granular, and reliable broadband data is critical for state officials to ensure decisions regarding BEAD and other funding programs are made from the most correct broadband information available.

Have any questions about what data is best to support your broadband expansion project?

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