The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) will use the map as the foundation for allocating over $42 billion in broadband infrastructure subsidies
Back in November 2021, the long-awaited Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) was written into law, provisioning roughly $1.2 trillion in government funding for infrastructure projects across the US, spanning highway maintenance to power grid updates.
In May, as part of the IIJA, the Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment (BEAD) Program was formally announced, setting aside $42.45 billion to provide high-speed ‘Internet for All’ across the country. These funds were set to be allocated by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) to the areas in the US with the poorest broadband access.
Identifying these areas, however, is no easy task, not only given the nation’s scale but also its federated nature, which often obfuscates cross-state data gathering processes.
As such, the IIJA required the FCC create a National Broadband Map (NBM), collating data from across the country to both identify underserved areas and serve as a benchmark from which to assess grant requests.
This week, the FCC have unveiled their first draft of the NBM, including nationwide data on the availability of both mobile and fixed internet services.
The map is devised primarily through the meshing together of two data sets: a ‘broadband serviceable location fabric’, essentially listing all physical structures (such as homes and businesses) where broadband could be required, as well as coverage data provided by the ISPs themselves.
“[The National Broadband Map is an] important milestone in our effort to help everyone, everywhere get specific information about what broadband options are available for their homes, and pinpointing places in the country where communities do not have the service they need,” said FCC chair Jessica Rosenworcel.
As part of the NBM’s release, the FCC are inviting comments from the general public, allowing them to submit data about broadband availability in their own area. In this way, the FCC hopes to keep iterating on the NBM, making it increasingly accurate over time.
There are fears, however, that this process of gradual improvement will take too long. The NTIA is expected to announce BEAD funding in June of next year, hence the organisation recommends that challenges to the current map are submitting January 13, 2023, if they are to be considered during subsidy allocations.
Thus, even though the NBM will be gradually improved over the coming years, for many states it could in fact be too late for them to benefit from it in the form of BEAD funding.
Want to learn more about the US broadband landscape? Join the experts in discussion at the Connected America conference – book now and save 80% off your ticket!