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Broadband Offices’ Perspectives on FCC Broadband Map Deadline

Almost two months after the FCC released its new broadband map, state governments have submitted “bulk challenges” as part of a requirement to receive BEAD funding.

A screenshot of the home search page of the FCC’s new broadband maps that shows a search bar over a gray and white map of the U.S. covered in light and dark blue dots to indicate locations of connectivity.
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) recently released a draft of a new federal broadband map, and state governments were asked to submit challenges to its accuracy ahead of a Jan. 13 deadline. The goal is to create a more accurate resource for figuring out Internet speeds nationwide.

More specifically, the purpose of this month’s deadline is for the federal government to obtain enough Internet availability data to inform the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) on how to best allocate $42.5 billion in Broadband Equity, Access and Deployment (BEAD) grants to states and territories, which is scheduled to happen June 30.

So, how have states navigated this process, and what are they working on next until these funds are allocated?


For Georgia, submitting challenges to the FCC’s map has been somewhat easier thanks to the state creating its own broadband availability map in 2020, according to Joshua Hildebrandt, director of broadband initiatives for the Georgia Technology Authority.

“In the case of Georgia, because we do have a lot of really good statewide data down to location level, we have really taken on the responsibility as a state and as a broadband office to run point on the challenges both on fabric and availability,” Hildebrandt said regarding the FCC’s map.

However, that’s not to say the process has been without any difficulties.

One of the more obvious challenges has been adjusting to the FCC’s new way of compiling data compared to previous iterations that showed data by census block.

In the past, tracking broadband data at the census tract level would result in many residents and businesses being inaccurately represented. For example, one connected household in a census tract would cause the entire tract to be identified as served.

Now, however, Hildebrandt says there’s an added level of work that needs to be done by states and service providers to fine-tune the FCC’s map in a short amount of time.

“It is just a major process and structure change for the FCC and everybody else who works with them,” he said. “When you’re looking at locations, you have to look at every single one; you have to geocode each one; you have to look at latitude and longitude. So, there’s a lot of work involved there.”

Then there’s the issue of actually submitting challenges.

For example, Hildebrandt explained that you could simply have a missing location on the FCC map or a wrong address shown as served, which can throw off reporting and evaluating availability.

For Georgia, he said, “we’re talking about hundreds of thousands of locations that we are concerned about — it’s not just as simple as saying our data shows they’re unserved, and yours says they’re served. Add that to these timelines, which are a month or two in nature, and it’s just not enough time.”

Challenges aside, the plan for Georgia is to focus on the FCC’s second broadband data collection filing window, which opened on Jan. 3.

This round of data collection allows facilities-based broadband service providers and state, local and tribal governments to share where they provide Internet access service to the FCC’s Broadband Data Collection system by March 3.

The reason this is important for Georgia, Hildebrandt said, is “from what we’ve heard from a couple of different people working at NTIA and other places, it is their hope, at least under the timeline of Jan. 13, and then June 30, that this is all going to be based upon the second version of the map, not the first version.”

As a result, he added, “we are in the process of evaluating the version two fabric, and we will continue doing so.”


Texas Comptroller Glenn Hegar recently announced the release of the state’s broadband map showcasing which areas might be eligible to receive funding for broadband expansion projects.

The map uses data from Internet service providers (ISPs) to show the types of high-speed Internet access used across the state.

As for how releasing Texas’ map ties into the FCC’s Jan. 13 deadline, it doesn’t, at least not directly, according to Greg Conte, director of the state’s broadband development office.

“We’re getting the same data that ISPs are submitting to the FCC,” Conte said, but “we just don’t have the data to really challenge anything on the FCC map because we already have the data that was submitted to them (by ISPs).”

Conte expanded further, saying, “the Jan. 13 deadline is just availability challenges; it has nothing to do with location challenges. The FCC has put out their V2 (second version) fabric at the end of December, so location challenges to that fabric won’t be incorporated into the June 30 allocation from the NTIA. That doesn’t mean we’re not going to submit location challenges; we certainly will.”

However, Texas’ broadband development office plans to focus on how its new map measures up against the FCC’s V2 fabric first.

Once that’s done, Conte said, “we’ll get together sometime late January or early February and start strategizing on how we’re going to submit location challenges to the FCC based upon what we discovered through that process. But you know, when it comes to the Jan. 13 deadline, that’s an outreach perspective for us.”

After that, the plan is to continue updating Texas’ map, build its own grant program based on data submitted for the map and begin planning initiatives around IIJA planning funds.


For Nebraska, one of the biggest challenges leading up to the Jan. 13 deadline has been trying to prove if the information shared in the FCC’s map is correct within a short amount of time.

For example, Cullen Robbins, director of the Nebraska Universal Services Fund/Telecommunications for the state’s public service commission, said, “we identified pretty quickly that there was an overstatement of availability in Nebraska, so we worked pretty hard to figure out right away what was going on there and it seemed to us that it really comes down to licensed fixed wireless providers that claim 25/3 Mbps coverage in a lot of areas of the state.”

Once those discrepancies were cleared up, the commission faced another issue; submitting challenges to the FCC’s map.

“When we first started submitting challenges, they were getting rejected,” Robbins said. “We attempted to work with the FCC helpline to figure out what was going on but it really just took trial and error to get everything to upload correctly.”

One of the issues during this process was the number of records that the FCC system allowed to be submitted at any given time.

“I’m glad we started when we did,” Robbins said. “If we were trying to do it today, I frankly don’t think that we would be able to get everything uploaded in time because it took us literally days to get everything uploaded.”

As for what’s next, the commission plans to focus on upcoming challenge resolutions from the FCC.

“Next steps, as we understand it, are the resolution of the [FCC] challenges,” Robbins told Government Technology. “I know some of them involve working with the carrier that’s reporting the coverage, and I’m not entirely clear how that process is supposed to work, but I believe they have 60 days to provide a response to the FCC.

As a result, he added, “we’ve been in contact with the carriers that we submit challenges for, so I think we’re just going to be kind of in conversations with those carriers about how a resolution might be arrived at.”
Katya Diaz is a staff writer for Government Technology. She has a bachelor’s degree in journalism and a master’s degree in global strategic communications from Florida International University.