In February 2023, the FCC Chairwoman released detailed responses to a joint letter members of Congress wrote her back in December 2022, regarding their concerns about the National Broadband Map and the Broadband Data Collection (BDC) process.
In the response letters, the FCC Chairwoman addresses head-on the concerns several Congress members outlined in their December letter, and keys in on how many of those concerns have been addressed and resolved as part of the iterative process outlined by Congress in the BroadbandDATA Act. The FCC Chairwoman also breaks down the process and results of the Broadband Data Collection Challenges for both the Location Fabric and ISP’s Service Availability Data.
Below are key excerpts from the Chairwoman’s letters you should know:
Page 1 of 8 in the Chairwoman’s letters to members of Congress. Source: FCC.
Regarding the FCC Broadband Serviceable Location Fabric
- “More than 20 states submitted bulk challenges to Version 1 of the Fabric, as did many internet service providers. For example, 22 states or other governmental entities submitted 1,114,100 individual challenges to the Fabric data that were processed in anticipation of preparation of Version 2 of the Fabric. These challenges were predominately challenges to add missing locations but included challenges to correct information associated with existing locations as well. These challenges sought corrections for records corresponding to less than 1% of the total number of locations identified in Version 1 of the Fabric.
- “Of these 1.11 million challenges, more than half were for locations that were either already included in Version 1 of the Fabric or that CostQuest, the vendor selected to develop the Fabric in accordance with the Broadband DATA Act, had independently identified through its own efforts for inclusion in Version 2 of the Fabric.”
- “Meaningful changes have been made to the Fabric as a result of these efforts. For example, in the State of Alaska, Version 1 of the Fabric identified 216,766 BSLs, whereas Version 2 sent to license holders on December 30, 2022, for use in the data to be collected as of December 31, 2022, identifies 262,453 BSLs (or a 21% increase). Similarly, the number of BSLs in Mineral County, Nevada (which includes part of the Walker River Tribal Lands) increased 17.9% from Version 1 of the Fabric to Version 2. We believe Version 2 of the dataset, which reflects changes like these, will address most, if not all, of the outstanding concerns. On top of that, any remaining issues will continue to be addressed through our continued efforts to improve and refine the data in future versions of the Fabric in addition to the challenge process that is an integral part of our BDC endeavor.”
- “Version 2 of the Fabric is currently available to states, governmental entities, and all Fabric license holders. This iterative update to the Fabric includes 1.04 million more locations than the version currently shown on the National Broadband Map. Version 2 also incorporates millions of adjustments to the data associated with locations that were already included in the first version of the Fabric, including, for example, changes to address fields, unit counts, secondary addresses, BSL status, building and land use codes, etc.
- “Location challenges from state governments led to nearly 122,000 new location additions. However, the majority of location additions and other adjustments were a result of CostQuest’s ongoing efforts to update and improve the Fabric by refining the models and processes for creating the Fabric and using updated and improved input data sources such as new and more granular parcel data. These ongoing efforts to improve the Fabric outside of the challenge process will continue and remain an important tool for the improvement of the National Broadband Map.
Regarding ISP’s Service Availability Data
- “We have taken several steps to prevent systematic overreporting of coverage by broadband service providers. First, the FCC engaged with the provider community extensively during the inaugural filing window, offering unprecedented hands-on assistance and support resources to help in the preparation and submission of their data. Second, and as noted earlier, the Commission built an entirely new data collection system for purposes of the BDC. The new system was designed with several built-in automated data checks which report, in real-time, both “hard” errors that prevent the upload and certification of data as well as “soft” warnings that suggest there may be an issue with a provider’s data. For example, the system uses subscription data reported by service providers as a cross-check against the provider’s availability data and produces errors in certain situations where these data do not align as expected. The built-in checks and verifications will continue as an ongoing part of the BDC. Third, once the inaugural filing window closed, the FCC began processing and reviewing these data for anomalies, patterns, and other identifiable errors. Finally, we expect as a more general matter that the availability of a challenge process mandated by the Broadband DATA Act and implemented in the BDC serves as a deterrent to overreporting, particularly given that providers will have to expend time and resources to respond to challenges. We recognize also, that as providers gain familiarity with this system, efforts to intentionally misstate service may be subject to enforcement action. In fact, we already have an investigation underway.”
- “– testing data, like fixed speed test results, can offer important information about the quality of service and network performance at a location. As such, this data is accepted in the BDC as crowdsource data and may be used to inform the Commission’s verification efforts under the Broadband DATA Act. These data may also help inform Commission audits of provider data, which are also required under the Broadband DATA Act. Finally, when submitted by consumers this data will also form the basis of an informal consumer complaint that we will serve on the provider.”
Regarding the National Broadband Map
- “It is more important than ever for us to know where broadband is, and is not, available throughout the nation. Far too many households remain unconnected, and accurately showing where they are located is an important part of directing funding to the communities that need it the most. The map we have is a work that is always in progress, just as Congress designed it to be in the Broadband DATA Act. I am confident that the BDC process we have established will help improve the map just as Congress envisioned. I also will continue to ensure that the Broadband Data Task Force makes itself available to all stakeholders interested in offering challenges to the current iteration of our data. I hope the above is helpful. Please let me know if you have any further questions. I look forward to continuing to work with you to help close the digital divide.”
A reminder of what components make up the FCC’s National Broadband Map
The FCC’s National Broadband map consists of two components: the location information of all the locations (building structures) across the U.S. that are or can be connected with broadband, which is supplied by CostQuest in the FCC Fabric data, and the broadband service availability data submitted by Internet Service Providers (ISPs) in the Broadband Data Collection System.
The locations in the FCC Fabric data make up the individual location points that appear on the National Broadband Map. Each point represents a Broadband Serviceable Location (BSL), as determined by the Commission. The FCC uses the service availability data submitted by BDC Filers in combination with the FCC Fabric data, to create the underlying data in the FCC’s National Broadband Map to represent where filers report broadband services are available for each individual location.
Click the links below to read the FCC Chairwoman’s full letters:
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.