FCC embarks on third data collection round for broadband map

Just over a month after the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) released the latest version of its national broadband map, the agency on Monday unveiled a third round of broadband data collection.

As of July 3, ISPs can submit data into the FCC’s Broadband Data Collection (BDC) system, indicating which locations their service is available as well as subscription data. All subscription and availability data must be current as of June 30, 2023.

Providers have until September 1 to submit the required data, but the FCC in its release encouraged filers to submit data “as early as possible” in the filing window so that they have enough time to make any corrections.

“Failure to timely file required data in the new BDC system may lead to enforcement action and/or penalties as set forth in the Communications Act and other applicable laws,” the FCC said.

The broadband map was last updated on May 30, reflecting provider-submitted data as of December 31,2022. Entities (including consumers, states, localities and tribes) submitted about 4 million challenges contesting that data.

The federal government leveraged the updated map to decide state allocations for the $42.5 billion Broadband Equity, Access and Deployment (BEAD) program, which were announced at the end of June.

In a separate notice, the FCC announced it’s now accepting bulk challenges to the June 2023 version of the map’s Broadband Serviceable Location Fabric – a dataset of all locations in the U.S. where fixed broadband is or could be installed.

Although the FCC did not set a hard deadline for bulk Fabric challenges, it noted challenges submitted before September 8 “are most likely to be reviewed and adjudicated” before the next iteration of the Fabric is released in December.

Challenges filed after September 8 “will continue to be accepted and reviewed on a rolling basis,” said the FCC, but those will likely be incorporated into a future version of the Location Fabric.

The FCC’s map is key for determining how many locations in the country are considered unserved or underserved. A Cartesian study from June predicted there will be around 12 million unserved and underserved locations once BEAD money starts flowing to states.

However, the firm predicted only 7.4 million locations will likely be eligible for BEAD funding by January 2024, as a result of ongoing builds and locations already covered by federal subsidies.