The FCC’s first mapping deadline passed – here’s what happens next

Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel revealed the agency is pushing to release its new broadband coverage map as soon as November, though iterative updates are set to follow. While the release of the map will mark a key milestone, Conexon Partner Jonathan Chambers told Fierce one key question remains: what version of the FCC map will be used to allocate the $42.5 billion available through the Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment (BEAD) program.

The FCC in March tapped CostQuest to provide a location fabric – or common dataset of serviceable locations – for its new map. In June, it opened a data collection process through which operators were encouraged to report what locations were served and unserved using the CostQuest fabric. The submission window for coverage data closed last week on September 1. So, what happens now?

Rosenworcel said in a blog the FCC is looking to put out the first version of its new map based on the original CostQuest fabric and data collection in November. But at the same time, it is beginning what will be an ongoing effort to refine both the fabric and its map.

Starting September 12, the FCC will kick off a challenge process which will allow operators, state, local and Tribal governments to seek changes to the location fabric. This process will initially focus on “bulk” challenges, or requests for multiple changes from the same entity.

Once the FCC’s initial map is released to the public in November, a challenge window will open for individuals to submit single-location change requests for the fabric.

These challenges will assist in the creation of a refined location fabric which is expected to be released in December of this year.

“Broadband providers are constantly updating and expanding their networks,” Rosenworcel wrote in the blog. “We have set up a process to make sure our map will reflect these changes and yield more precise data over time.”

The FCC’s new broadband coverage map is set to be used by the government to divvy up BEAD funding based on the number of unserved locations in each state. But Conexon’s Chambers told Fierce it’s unclear whether the government will use the initial map the FCC puts out in November or wait until after initial refinements are made.

“I believe the FCC’s multi-year iterative location fabric/broadband data collection process will produce useful, accurate map. The question is whether the current data collection will be used for the BEAD allocation calculation, or the next round of data and map,” he explained.

“The next round will follow the challenges to the location fabric and then challenges to the ISP service claims,” Chambers continued. “If the former, then the challenge processes are irrelevant. If the latter, then the allocation calculation will not occur for another nine months or so.”