Sanborn is helping states simplify the BEAD challenge process

The Sanborn Map Company is one of a number of companies offering tools for states to help them prepare for the Broadband Equity, Access and Deployment (BEAD) program.

Launched last year, Sanborn’s Broadband Navigator is a tool that aims to simplify the BEAD challenge process. Eligible entities – ISPs, local governments and nonprofits – can use the portal to look up an address, view broadband coverage details, take a speed test and submit evidence to challenge the broadband coverage determination.

Sanborn broadband navigator

Sanborn has had experience working with broadband data and developing web-based broadband mapping applications for over a decade, said Justin Fazzari, Sanborn’s senior broadband strategist.

From 2009 to 2014, Sanborn worked with states to help them collect and map broadband data as part of the NTIA’s $293 million State Broadband Initiative. It’s also assisted states in submitting challenges for the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC’s) national broadband map.

Now, Sanborn’s working with more than a dozen states “to support their NTIA program compliance and broadband infrastructure build,” Fazzari said.

The BEAD state challenge process is important because it will enable states to create an improved state broadband map and help them make sure all broadband serviceable locations have speeds of at least 100 Mbps downstream and 20 Mbps upstream.

The BEAD program requires states to develop a challenge portal through which entities can challenge and update existing broadband coverage data.

“The Broadband Navigator portal is what states need now to manage these complex requirements and automate the data validation workflows,” said Fazzari.

“From our experience working with states, we know that states have unique characteristics,” he went on to say. “They differ widely in the geography of broadband coverage, terrain, and population distribution and density.”

“Part of our value proposition for each Navigator implementation is that we work with each state to clarify their requirements for the State BEAD Challenge Process and then adjust each state’s Broadband Navigator accordingly.”

Hurdles in BEAD challenge process

States face a few hurdles in the state challenge process. First, they don’t know how many challenges will be submitted, so states “need to build enough capacity to process a potentially large number of challenges,” Fazzari noted.

While Sanborn’s Broadband Navigator automates many steps in the process, states will require “sufficient staffing support for adjudicating challenges efficiently and accurately.”

Another challenge will be “ensuring robust stakeholder participation.” Sanborn hopes its tool will increase participation while improving the quality of data received for review.

Once the NTIA approves volumes one and two of a state’s initial proposal, the state has one year to conduct and finalize its challenge process, run its subgrantee selection process, and submit a final report to the NTIA.

Currently, Louisiana is the only state that’s received approval for both volumes and unlocked access to its BEAD allocation.

“It is crucial that the state manages their Challenge Process efficiently, making sure all challenges are accurately adjudicated and documented for reporting to NTIA so that they have adequate time to conduct their Subgrantee Selection Process,” Fazzari concluded.