The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) requested that initial challenges to the recently released broadband coverage maps be submitted by January 13, 2023. Since that date is right around the corner, communities and citizens need to quickly understand the procedures for making a challenge and drafting a compelling argument. The tight timeline stems from the need to finalize maps before funds can be disbursed under the Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment (BEAD) program. The National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) is expected to be ready to release funds by June 30, 2023. 

Who can submit a challenge?

In the announcement of the new broadband maps, Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel emphasized that the FCC is open to changes to the “pre-production drafts” released in November 2022. Both individual consumers and state, local, and Tribal governments can submit a type of challenge to the FCC. 

Options for government entities 

State, local, and Tribal governments can either submit bulk crowdsourced data or bulk challenges. Both types of input will need to be uploaded to the FCC’s Broadband Data Collection System Dashboard. On the Broadband Data Collection Dashboard, government entities will find three types of challenge areas: 

  • Fixed Availability Challenge – Governments can submit bulk crowdsourced data or bulk challenges on fixed broadband connectivity. The latter triggers a required response from the service provider in the challenged location within 60 days, while the former does not. More on the key differences between the two can be found in this FCC article
  • Mobile Availability Challenge – Governments can submit bulk crowdsourced data or a challenge on mobile broadband connectivity. Providers that are the subject of a challenge will be notified of the challenge and have 60 days to respond. Providers will be notified of mobile crowdsourced data pertinent to their coverage area, but will not be required to respond. Additional information about the differences between the two can be found here
  • Fabric Challenge – The Fabric is a common dataset of all locations where fixed broadband Internet access is available. Governments can submit bulk challenges to help flag missing or incorrect locations and overall increase the accuracy of the broadband maps. 

Options for individual consumers

Challenges submitted by individual consumers (akin to challenges submitted by government entities) can strengthen a mapping argument, so communities are encouraged to share their challenges with stakeholders. Use the FCC’s outreach toolkit to raise awareness among constituents. 

Individual consumers can submit three types of challenges as listed below. The challenge form can be found and filled out after searching for the desired location on the map

  • Location Challenge – The broadband maps show individual location points that identify buildings where Internet is or is not available. Locations are color-coded, and consumers can challenge for a missing location, misidentified location, incorrect information, or incorrect placement. See more here. 
  • Availability Challenge – The broadband maps show where Internet is available. Individual consumers can challenge if they believe the services listed for a location are not actually available, or if the information is incorrect. Learn more about availability challenges here.
  • Mobile Challenge – The broadband maps show the coverage area reported by mobile wireless service providers. Individuals can dispute information on the map by taking speed tests on a mobile device using the FCC Speed Test App while outdoors or in a moving car. The obtained speed test results will be aggregated and analyzed to determine if an area meets the FCC’s threshold for requiring a provider response. See more here.  

Call to action

Creating accurate broadband coverage maps is imperative for equitably expanding broadband access across the nation. Past inaccurate versions have hurt communities by misallocating valuable resources, so it is important for all government entities and individuals to contribute toward getting it right this time around. Plenty of resources are available to guide and direct government entities and consumers through the process at the FCC website. Additionally, the US Ignite team is happy to answer any questions or help communities navigate the process – just reach out to [email protected]