Friday, September 30, 2022
You’re reading the Benton Institute for Broadband & Society’s Weekly Digest, a roundup of the most important (or overlooked) broadband stories of the week. The summary is delivered by e-mail every Friday.
Overview of the week of September 26 to 30, 2022
On Monday, September 26, Benton Institute for Broadband & Society Director of Research and Fellowships, Dr. Revati Prasad, hosted an online panel discussion, From scratch: broadband mapping by and for communities, on how communities and states are collecting data on local broadband availability as the Federal Communications Commission rolls out the Broadband Data Collection (BDC) program. The panel was moderated by Dustin Loup, program manager at the National Broadband Mapping Coalition, co-sponsor of the event. He framed the discussion by pointing out that inaccurate broadband rollout data not only overestimated the percentage of U.S. households with broadband access, but also prevented some communities from being eligible for federal and/or state programs that subsidize the construction of the broadband network.
In accordance with the Broadband Deployment Accuracy and Technological Availability (DATA) Act, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is radically reforming its process for collecting and displaying the availability of fixed and mobile broadband services. The Broadband Data Collection (BDC) Program, we hope will give the FCC, industry, state, local, and tribal government entities, and consumers the tools they need to improve the accuracy of existing maps. The first public version of the new FCC map is expected in November, with a challenge period to follow.
In the immediate term, the $42.45 billion made available to states, territories and tribes by Congress cannot be allocated until the FCC updates its maps, identifying the communities that do not do not have access to reliable broadband service at speeds of at least 25 Mbps downstream/3 Mbps upstream (considered “unserved”) and 100 Mbps downstream/20 Mbps upstream (considered “underserved” ). The Broadband Equity, Access and Deployment (BEAD) Program, administered by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), will allocate support to the 50 states, Washington (DC), Puerto Rico, US Virgin Islands, Guam, American Samoa and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands in depending on each its unserved and underserved locations. But local governments, broadband providers, and nonprofits can ask those states and territories to determine whether or not an area is unserved or underserved.
The panel included:
- Shayna EnglinDirector, California Community Foundation Digital Equity Initiative
- Brian WhitacreTeacher, Department of Agricultural Economics, Oklahoma State University
- Lonnie HamiltonIIIBroadband Planner, Broadband Office, Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD)
- Edouard Bartholme, Senior Outreach Director, Broadband Data Task Force, Federal Communications Commission
- Sarah Morris, Senior advisor, Office of the Assistant Secretary, National Telecommunications and Information Administration
- Lai Yi OhlsenData Scientist, Measurement laboratory
Engine discussed the Digital Equity Initiative’s efforts to understand access, affordability, and adoption in low-income communities and communities of color in Los Angeles County. She lamented that actual household-by-household access and pricing data is not being collected, but stressed that this is what is really needed to address systemic underinvestment in connectivity infrastructure, leaving communities with a slower, less reliable and more expensive Internet.
The FCC has created what is called a Broadband Usable Location Fabric, a data set of all locations or structures where broadband could be provided. Whitacre studied how the fabric captures usable locations in Oklahoma (see, for example, The Broadband Usable Location Fabric, Rural America and Agriculture). He expressed concern that the fabric might not identify agricultural structures, which would likely prevent a state from receiving support to extend service to those locations.
The Virginia General Assembly has instructed the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) to develop a statewide broadband availability map showing broadband coverage, including speeds broadband speeds available in Commonwealth service territories. The DHCD collected location-based data from nearly every broadband provider in the Commonwealth, compiled the data and released the map earlier this year. hamilton touted the card as the best in the country and noted how it improved apps for the Virginia Telecommunications Initiative (VATI), which prepares communities to build, use and capitalize on telecommunications infrastructure with the aim of creating strong and competitive communities.
Bartholme acknowledged problems with previous FCC broadband data collection methods. He pointed out that the shift to high-speed location-based data is a positive development. He also noted that the data can for the first time be scrutinized and challenged by communities, government bodies and others. He highlighted the two types of challenges that the FCC will consider 1) to the fabric itself and whether or not an address is a location served by broadband and 2)”Fixed availability challengesand whether or not a particular location has access to fixed broadband service.
Morris describes how initially FCC data and maps will face challenges at the FCC. Next, the process moves to states and territories that will use FCC data to identify, first, unserved areas within their jurisdictions that will receive priority for BEAD program support. States, as noted above, will run their own challenge processes. These processes are subject to NTIA review and approval. The NTIA encourages states and territories to involve the public in these planning processes and efforts. Successful challenges in any state or territory will be reviewed by the NTIA.
What can speed test data tell us about broadband availability? Well, of course you need a connection to run a speed test. But speed tests also help determine a service’s usefulness for bandwidth-intensive applications. Measurement Lab aims to provide consumers with useful information about the performance of their Internet services. Ohlsen advocated integrating service speed data into all parts of the mapping and challenge processes. She believes it is both necessary and complementary to data from broadband service providers.
For more coverage of the event, see Communities collect granular broadband data while waiting for better federal maps Where watch it in full on youtube.
Weekend readings (resist tl;dr)
Events to come
September 30—Activation of Middle Mile Broadband Infrastructure Program (NTIA) applications
October 5—Affordability and Trust: Tips for Impactful Digital Inclusion Work (EveryoneOn)
October 5—Working Group Meeting to Review Precision Agriculture Connectivity and Technology Needs in the United States (FCC)
October 6 and 7 – Navigating the Fundraising Flood (Oregon Connections)
October 12—25 Years of Electronic Rates: A Reception and Celebration (SHLB Coalition)
October 13—2022 Wireless Spectrum Update (Keller & Heckman)
Oct. 17 — Changing Our (Virtual) Reality: Telehealth and the Maternal Health Crisis in the United States (Cities of the Next Century)
October 19—Spectrum Summit (Georgetown Center for Business and Public Policy)
October 27—Open meeting of the Federal Communications Commission
The Benton Institute for Broadband & Society is a nonprofit organization that works to ensure that everyone in the United States has access to competitive, high-performance broadband, regardless of where they live or who they belong to. We believe that the communications policy – rooted in the values of access, equity and diversity – has the power to provide new opportunities and strengthen communities.
© Benton Institute for Broadband & Society 2022. Redistribution of this publication via e-mail – both internally and externally – is encouraged if it incorporates this copyright statement.
For subscription/unsubscription information, please email headlinesATbentonDOTorg