The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has finally made the first draught of its new broadband map available to the public, giving them their first glimpse at comprehensive coverage information for each area in the US. With its launch, a challenging procedure will be launched that will allow anyone to report lost or misplaced addresses and contest service availability dates provided by operators. What you should know is as follows.
The produced map shows coverage information overlaid on an image of the nation in the form of colored hexagons. More coverage is present when a hexagon is a deeper shade of blue. When you zoom in, serviced addresses are shown as red dots, while covered places are shown as green dots. The map’s display’s default coverage benchmark is 25 Mbps downstream and 3 Mbps upstream. The display also defaults to showing all technology types – so, wired, fixed wireless access, and satellite. However, both of these metrics can be adjusted to filter for different speeds and technologies. More on that in a second.
The homepage for the map prominently displays a search bar where users can enter a specific address to view coverage. This is expected to be the most commonly used feature, but for those looking to get a broader picture, the FCC also provides options for Area Summary view, which can home in on a state, county, Congressional District, or Tribal Area.
Users can choose which speed metric (25/3, 100/20, 250/25, 1,000/100, etc.) or technology is displayed by clicking the gear-shaped Settings button in the white information box on the right side of the screen (fiber, cable, copper, etc.). Users will also be able to view changes in coverage over time following additional data collections by selecting various dates from the “Data as of” dropdown menu. The most recent data available at this time is as of June 30, 2022.
It is crucial to remember that the speeds listed are the highest advertised speeds rather than the highest practical speeds at a certain site. Users will be able to inform the FCC if a speed promised isn’t actually available at a certain location through the challenge process.
Another view on the FCC’s map – the Provider Detail option – allows users to scope out coverage by the operator and even compare the coverage areas of more than one ISP. This can be done by clicking Add Provider, typing in a provider’s name, and selecting what technology type will be displayed.
A visualization of mobile coverage is also available by clicking the “Mobile Broadband” tab on the right side of the screen. As with fixed service, mobile coverage can be sorted by technology type (3G, 4G, 5G).
When viewing a specific location on the map, users can submit both location and availability challenges by clicking the respective links in the white data box on the right side of the screen. This is one of the map’s primary features. Users can also click on the map where the location ought to display if a usable location is absent. There will be a text box with a location challenge option in it. Up until those challenges are settled, the location where they were filed will be shown on the map.
Mobile challenges must be submitted through the FCC’s Speed Test app.
All submitted challenges will be examined by FCC staff before being forwarded to the concerned ISP for a response. The operators can then either concede or rebut the challenge. In the latter case, the ISP will reach out directly to the challenger to try to resolve the issue. But if a resolution can’t be reached, the FCC will step in to decide whether the challenge should be upheld or dismissed.
In a note to investors, New Street Research analysts said they expect “many challenges to the map,” particularly from states given funding from the $42.5 billion Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment (BEAD) Program will be allocated based on the number of unserved locations in each.
“New York has already done so, and the more states that do so, the greater the financial and political incentives for other states to do so,” they wrote. “The more challenges there are, the more difficult it will be for the FCC and NTIA to meet their deadlines.”
The National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) recently said it plans to announce state BEAD allocations by June 30, 2023.
Despite being just issued, a number of industry stakeholders, including NTIA director Alan Davidson, operator AT&T, and business associations NCTA and WISPA, have praised the new map.
According to a WISPA spokeswoman, the map represents “an tremendous advance in technology, light years beyond the 477, with the most, if not all, of the granularity we have been advocating for years,” according to Fierce.
In a same vein, NCTA admitted the challenge process means the FCC’s work on the map is “far from done,” but nonetheless deemed the initial version “a promising step forward.”
For his part, Davidson urged citizens, businesses, and government officials to participate in the discussion. “We’ve worked for years to pinpoint the precise boundaries of the digital divide,” he said in a statement. “Together, we can craft a map to guide us to our goal of connecting everyone in America.”