FCC chair says it received 1.1M location challenges to broadband map

Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel revealed states and government entities submitted 1.11 million location challenges to the first version of its new and improved broadband map. But it’s not yet clear how many availability challenges may have been filed.

Rosenworcel’s comments came in response to a letter from 13 Senators expressing concerns about the accuracy of the FCC’s new map. According to Rosenworcel, more than half of the locations challenged were either already included in the first version of the map or identified by FCC map vendor CostQuest for inclusion in the second version.  She added that given the first version of the map included a total of more than 113.2 million broadband serviceable locations, the challenged sites accounted for “less than 1%” of the total number of locations on the first version of the map.

The chairwoman stated 122,000 new locations were added to the second version of the map as a direct result of successful challenges. All told, the second iteration includes 1.04 million more locations than the first, she added.

The FCC’s broadband map incorporates two layers of data: locations and availability. The second version of its so-called “location fabric” was made available in December 2022. Availability data and challenges submitted between December 31, 2022 and March 1, 2023 must use the second version of the fabric. A second version of the full map – based on the new fabric and inclusive of fresh availability data – is due out this spring.

Rosenworcel’s letter didn’t disclose how may availability challenges the FCC has received. However, responding to concerns from the Senators that a broadband map from Microsoft shows a much wider swath of unserved consumers than the FCC’s map, Rosenworcel noted there’s a difference between availability and other obstacles to connectivity.

“Digital equity is a wholistic and important conversation, but not within the scope of the FCC’s Broadband Data Collection and the data shown on our current maps,” she wrote.

She also indicated the FCC plans to crack down on operators who overstate service availability during the data collection process.

“I plan on using every tool at the Commission’s disposal to correct the map and appreciate you highlighting areas where you believe widespread inaccuracies may exist. This includes enforcement action when providers do not comply with our rules when they file availability data and, to this end, we already have an enforcement investigation that is ongoing,” she said.

Rosenworcel also sought to clear up confusion and concerns related to challenge deadlines. Though government officials previously said challenges should be submitted by January 13 of this year to have the best chance for inclusion in the second version of the map, Rosenworcel noted that’s not a hard deadline.

She concluded “the Commission continues to accept and resolve location and availability challenges so that they may be included in future iterations of the map. The Commission rules make clear that the agency will accept challenges to the Fabric and availability data on a rolling basis, at any time.”