UPDATE The industry-led effort to better map where broadband is available and where it doesn’t exist, is making progress. In a webinar Thursday, USTelecom VP Policy & Advocacy Mike Saperstein said the biggest problem with the current Form 477 data the FCC is using, is it was not designed for the targeted broadband mapping that’s needed. “If one location in census block is served, the entire location is considered served. If we map where broadband is, we don’t know where broadband isn’t.”
More accurate location data means, “better estimates of cost, time to deploy and tracking of progress,” Saperstein said.
Jim Stegeman, President/CEO, CostQuest Associates, said USTelecom, The Broadband Association, and its partners launched the initiative because there is no comprehensive, public, single source of broadband location data. Better data means regulators can better target funds in current and future programs like the RUS/USDA Infrastructure program and Rural Digital Opportunity Fund, and prevent overbuilding.
“We want to remove the guesswork by mapping every American household and business that may need to be online,” explained Stegeman.
ITTA, The Voice of America’s Broadband Providers, and the Wireless Internet Service Providers Association, joined USTelecom in the initiative. Individual companies taking part in the project include AT&T, CenturyLink, Frontier, TDS, Verizon, and Windstream.
The group began its pilots in Missouri and Virginia three months ago. The companies will combine all their location and other usable data together, and format it into what they’re calling a “fabric” of locations that need access to broadband. A vendor will clean up the data and assign a unique latitude and longitude to the actual building where broadband service is most likely to be installed.
The “fabric” will provide visibility to consumers about what carriers serve a particular location with provided speeds.
The partners are targeting July for a proof of concept of the location “fabric,” including some analysis of how states can work with the data. The partners believe they’ll have the data ready for some states this fall in commercial form. They’re targeting 2020 to deploy the fabric nationwide with exact coordinates.
Still to be worked out, is how the FCC would make this data a part of its mapping process. If the agency adopts it, “they either own it or license it,” said Saperstein. These are the types of questions to be discussed in the coming weeks. Comments? Email Us.
By Leslie Stimson, Inside Towers Washington Bureau Chief
June 21, 2019
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